Rick Stone may be one of the more experienced coaches in the Intrust Super Cup competition, but he was entering unfamiliar territory when he signed up to once again coach the Burleigh Bears.
A premiership winner with the Bears in both 1999 and 2004, Stone has returned to the club in 2020 as the coach to take the side forward this year, off the back of them claiming the title last season.
“It’s not very often a new coach comes in off the back of winning a premiership, so it’s a different situation for everyone to be in,” Stone, who comes into 2020 having coached 209 Cup games, said.
“We understand that we have to start again, like all of us when we start the season, I think in the history of the Cup, there is only one team that has been able to go back-to-back in the competition as premiers, you have a bit of a target on your back and everyone is coming to beat you.”
Intrust Super Cup Grand Final Highlights: Wynnum v Bears
Stone, who has vast coaching experience including at NRL level with Newcastle Knights, has also helped mentor international teams such as Lebanon and Fiji and has also been at the helm of various women’s teams including most recently in the NRLW with the Sydney Roosters.
However, he’s happy to be back where he first made a real name for himself and said despite his knowledge and years in the game, he still was open to learning more.
“Absolutely, sometimes players can be your best coaches as well and there are some really experienced footy brains in our group and they have some good ideas and some clear directive on the way they want the game to be played,” Stone said.
“That’s been interesting, watching and learning a little bit from them as well, so you know there’s a hundred different ways of playing.
“We have a strong leadership group led by Luke Page, Pat Politoni and Jamal Fogarty and a few more boys there, they all drive the standards really well, so I suppose we will find out more once we start some games and the competition, but barring injury, I think we will remain competitive this year which is important.
“Putting some structure around the team; their's is pretty steady and it’s been successful and it’s tried and true, but our job I suppose as premiers is to probably challenge ourselves to get better.
“If you are standing still, you are going backwards because everyone else is trying to improve and go forward as well.”
Currently living in Mermaid Waters with his son Sam, who is signed with the Gold Coast Titans, another focus for Stone will be to help ensure the Bears continue to forge a productive relationship with the NRL club, which would ultimately benefit the players.
“I have been down to Titans training and have been touching base with Justin Holbrook, Jimmy Dymock and Jimmy Lenihan and the Flash, Flash Gordon (Michael Gordon) is there as well, so there are some good people there,” Stone said.
“I like the way the Titans have tried to build their coaching crew and build their staff and have been really open and transparent about things and I think the portability of knowledge and trust is pretty good there, so I have enjoyed that part.
“I have enjoyed taking a bit of a lead with the younger players that might come back to either Burleigh or Tweed or some of those boys who are still trying to find out what being an NRL players is all about and the standards look like and what the non-negotiables are.
"So we have been working on those little things and as we start to get players fed back to us, ideally we’ll have better relationships with those boys.”
With a strong culture already in place at the Bears, Stone said he saw some familiar signs and traits from his past days guiding the club.
“It reminds me a little bit of the team that I had in the late ‘90s into the 2000s myself, it was fairly established, really close and pretty consistent over the years and didn’t change a lot,” Stone said.
“That is something you can say of the Burleigh side of the last couple of years, you can see that they are comfortable in their own skin, they are really good mates and want to play for each other and they have some high standards they want to maintain."
Match: Bears v WM Seagulls
Round 1 -
Venue: Pizzey Park, Gold Coast