Jimmy's secret recipe creates happy and hungry Bears

Burleigh mentor Jimmy Lenihan knows more than your average coach about how to ensure players stay happy and hungry.

Next year, the 46-year-old will become the longest-serving Intrust Super Cup coach of all time, and in his stints as Burleigh coach he has obtained a good knowledge of how to lead a team in a semi-professional environment.

In the lead up to Sunday's home clash with the Sunshine Coast in the grand final qualifier, the 2016 premiership winning coach spoke about legacy, what he learned under former Bears coach Rick Stone and his general philosophy on coaching.

Players in the Intrust Super Cup juggle full-time work, rugby league and family life and ensuring that balance is maintained and that they are happy in their environment remains a number one priority for Lenihan. Bears captain Luke Page, who has been in several NRL systems, told the QRL website earlier this year that he was enjoying his football more now than at any time in his career under Lenihan. He is not alone on that score.

"There has always been pressure for the (Intrust Super) Cup to be super professional and always train like a full-time outfit but it can be a trap," Lenihan said.

"We just don’t have the time that the full-timers have. You have got a player that gets up at 4am and gets abused by his boss all day, then rushes to get to training to get abused by me.

"He then rushes to get home to his missus at 9pm to get abused by her because he hasn’t been around all day to be with the kids.

"It can lose its fun real quick, so there has to be an element of fun and enjoyment and not trying to cram 10 kilos of s**** into a one kilo bag.

"The biggest thing we have learned is that we have cut back our training time. We put a lot of intensity into it, but we are there for a short time, not a long time. We get in, get out and keep the blokes happy."

The Bears have celebrated the 20-year anniversary of their 1999 premiership win this year with a function that reinforced the history and success they have enjoyed over time.

When we talk about "legacy" in rugby league, it is a word steeped in meaning, but also one that takes time to evolve and sink in to any playing group.

"Legacy is obviously important, but it is only important after it has been created," Lenihan said.

The Bears tasted premiership success in 1999 and in seven seasons won two titles and played in four deciders.

"After 2004 we went 12 years before winning a premiership and we were always harking about playing for the jersey and playing for this or that," Lenihan said.

"For a lot of people that wasn’t really relevant. There is no use just telling blokes who turn up at Burleigh after being in full-time systems that ‘you are playing for the maroon and white’.

"It means nothing to them at that point, but I think playing for themselves in that moment is really important and for the time they are there they then want to make it ‘their house’ and make it the best they can make it.

"Once that success falls in, then it creates its own mini-legacy that leads into the legacy of the whole club."

Lenihan lives a stone’s throw from Pizzey Park and is reminded every day of the club he is coaching.

He is rightly proud of his playing group and that "mini-legacy" that he speaks about is certainly in evidence with his playing group. The core of his 2019 side is similar to the one that won the 2016 title.

"There’s Pat Politoni, Luke Page, Sami Sauiluma, Kurtis Rowe, Jamal Fogarty, Hayden Schwass, Josh Ailomai … a good chunk,” Lenihan said.

"A lot of them came out of full-time systems and are still trying to make it, which is a wonderful goal to have, but we have taken away that worry of trying to get to that invisible finish line or somewhere down the track.

"We have largely tried to get the players to realise that [top level] football will tap you on the shoulder if it needs you."

As a result, the Bears are busting their backsides to be the best players they can be in the here and now. The players know from their own experiences that the rewards will follow.

"We have had plenty of blokes go from Burleigh and into full-time systems. After 2016 ,Cameron Cullen went to Manly, Jamal Fogarty went to Parramatta and Politoni and [Paterika] Vaivai went to the Titans,” Lenihan said.

"I just think it is really important that the guys here are happy. They are starting to have families and buy houses in the area. It is good."

The Bears have enjoyed a remarkable consistency with their coaches since entering the competition.

They have played 523 games in the Intrust Super Cup all up with Rick Stone coaching the Bears in 209 of them and Lenihan in a record breaking 216. That’s two coaches at the helm for 81 per cent of all games.

The club’s overall performance in that time has been second only to Redcliffe.

"I don’t know if stability causes success or success causes stability. One strokes the other just as easily I suppose,” Lenihan said.

"Since I came back, in 2015 we had a tough year. In 2016 we made a lot of changes with what we did, and since 2016 our win percentage has been pretty good.

"This year we lost six. In 2016 we lost five and last year we lost about the same [with seven] with some quality players and people that have come to the club.

"That happened the first time around when I was playing under Stoney. From 1999 through to 2004 we were a fairly consistent group as well."

Lenihan, who was an outside back for the Gold Coast and St George before a stint at Huddersfield, arrived at the Bears as a player in 2000 and played for several seasons before starting his coaching career at the club in 2003.

He was on staff when the Bears won the competition in 2004 and learned plenty under Stone.

"I was Stoney’s water runner and then I was doing the FOGS A grade,” Lenihan said.

"You look back at things Stoney was doing then and it is only now that I realise the benefits of it. Some of the things are about, not so much football, but more man management.

"Rick was a good communicator and spoke to footballers on their level. Times have changed in 20 years. The game has changed and the relationships between coaches and players has as well.

"At this level, we are always probably five to seven years behind where the NRL are, but Rick always spoke to players in a very plain way and never put himself above them. I think that it is still important players are comfortable and happy."

The Bears have a massive challenge on Sunday at Pizzey Park when they host the minor premiers in the grand final qualifier.

Match: Bears v Falcons

Finals Week 3 -

Full Time
Bears

Home Team

Bears

Scored 24 points
Falcons

Away Team

Falcons

Scored 6 points

Venue: Pizzey Park, Gold Coast

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network

"I still think they are the King Kongs of the comp. They have taken defence to another level and changed their line speed and really condensed things up. They are playing fast and furious,” Lenihan said.

"They have put a lot of points on and while their attack is sharp, I still think it goes back to their defence and how stifling it is. We have certainly got our hands full."

All you need to know - 2019 Intrust Super Cup Grand Final day