What the Madge signing means


The Canberra Raiders have confirmed Michael Maguire would be coming on board as a senior coaching consultant for the next two seasons.

As we recently wrote we can see the benefits of such a deal. Madge has a wealth of experience, and has a proven track record at the top level. He’s got experience with a range of clubs, in a range of roles, and also at the international level. He’s proven his ability to fashion competition-winning quality defences and attacking structures. He potentially brings a voice in the room that has the cache and status to tell Sticky “no”, which is something that has been needed in recent years. While he didn’t succeed at the Tigers, sometimes it’s hard to blame the captain for the fact his ship is made of cardboard. As the end of the season showed, getting that organisation to row in the same direction is not easy.

It also brings stability by reputation to the club that has seen a fair bit of change in its coaching hierarchy this off-season. In a sense it was recognition that the club needed some new ideas. I’m not saying McFadden and White were pushed out, but I think both recognised for the club, and for themselves, to grow, there was a need for new voices. Maguire provides that, but also dispels any concern around the club that was trying to find willing rats while taking on water. They’ve managed the rare double of a high-profile acquisition that won’t undermine the main man. That they’ve done it in the most Canberra way – acquiring a distressed asset undervalued elsewhere – just adds to the ‘pro’ column.

It may also open up pathways to some of the New Zealand squad. Having their international coach on the staff can potentially become a selling point – and as we noted prior, this was possibly part of the Tapine pitch. Being able to capitalise on that relationship and expand the already formidable recruitment from Aotearoa could be a pipeline to success for the Milk

We note the role is “consultant” rather than “assistant coach”. This is probably partly to do with the fact that Madge wants to be a head coach again soon. It’s funny how these things work, but I’m sure that will land him on head-hunting lists that would otherwise leave him off if he were named assistant. Maintaining his status as a “consultant” instead of an “assistant” means he can pitch that he was the equal of Coach Stuart, or even a trusted ear for advice. It means he’s not viewed through the prism of once was and instead seen as “waiting for the perfect opportunity.” It’s a weird situation but it is what it is (shouts to M1 from the Green Machine Podcast).

I note smarter people than me (Hi Bourkey!) will suggest this is a succession plan but I’m not convinced. If the idea of this was that Madge would take over as head coach after Stuart then he’s got quite the wait. Stuart is in the job until he chooses not to be 2025 and I’m pretty sure Maguire wants to be in the top spot well before that. If it does occur, it’s because things go spectacularly poorly that Stuart is moved on before his time – which may lead to a clean out of the coaching staff that includes Maguire.

Our main concern – that Maguire’s stylistic preferences are too close to Stuart’s – remains. Both are a certain generation of rugby league mind. With Andrew Bishop and Mick Crawley the rest of the coaching staff currently, the brains trust has taken on a certain “Cheers is better than Seinfeld” vibe. Joel Carbone is going to spend a lot of time helping people log into HUDL. It brings into focus the need to fill out the remaining spot on the coaching staff with someone with more progressive coaching ideas, lest we stuck playing a pre-covid game in a post-covid world. This of course could be much ado about nothing. Part of the problem of the last few years is that the game moved so quickly because V’Landys has the attention span of a toddler with a bottle of red cordial and not enough sleep. But if we can make it through this off-season without another series of rule changes, experienced minds may finally be able to put their best thinking into place.

Regardless, we are viewing this with a degree of optimism. The new ideas may have to wait. Canberra are doubling down on experience, and trusting that near a century of rugby league knowledge will get the job done. It’s hard to argue with.

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