While speaking with Sydney Roosters Harold Matthews Head Coach Glenn Jones outside the change rooms of Henson Park, our conversation is interrupted by two of his players walking past.
They make the effort to show their gratitude by giving their new coach a firm handshake followed by a sincere “thanks Glenn.”
Like clockwork, the rest of the playing squad follows suit, echoing those identical two words before walking down the tunnel with their heads held high.
Despite losing their first game of the season 46-12 at the hands of a skillful Bulldogs outfit, their newfound respect for their coach is by no means affected.
Learning new systems is always great because you don’t want to be teaching the same thing over and over.Glenn Jones
Jones demands respect from his all his players, but he also earned it quickly from the moment they began pre-season on 1 November.
After leading the Parramatta Eels’ SG Ball Cup side to premiership glory in 2017, Jones took the opportunity to coach a younger group of players who are new to the representative arena.
The chance to work alongside premiership-winning coach Trent Robinson at a club which has enjoyed stellar overall success in recent years was too good to refuse, and he wants to play a key role in the development of a youthful side while enhancing his own coaching skills.
“If you’re the smartest man in the room, you’re in the wrong room,” Jones tells NSWRL.com.au.
“When you are in a head-coach position you’re teaching what you know, but obviously the main thing for me is to hang around with better people.
“You got to be in there learning off other people and it’s been great to get feedback from the guys who have been there and done it in the ranks above me, so I pick up a lot of things and get to take it back (to my squad).”
While the first 11 weeks have been a tough transition, coaching a team that is relatively low on representative experience and from different walks of life, Jones admits his own professional development in recent weeks is a testament to the hard work ethic of the fellow coaches at the club.
“The Roosters have got a great foundation here. I actually did my own Harold Matthews and SG Ball here and it’s nice to come back but just to look from a different perspective,” Jones says.
“Learning new systems is always great because you don’t want to be teaching the same thing over and over and everyone has got something that you can learn from.”
Jones says the most significant lesson he has learned is the added focus of the defensive structures of the respective squads, which he admits is the cornerstone of success in any grade of Rugby League.
“There is a real concentration on defence. I notice with ‘Robbo’ [Trent Robinson] and the Jersey Flegg squad under ‘Barnsey’ that they have a real emphasis on breaking down the defence and protecting their inside shoulder,” Jones adds. “Unfortunately we didn’t do too well today so obviously I need to work on my skills and executing it to the boys.”
Although it wasn’t the result he was after in his first game as head coach of the Roosters, Jones remains positive about the season ahead. He’s also aware of the challenge his new side faces.
The former Eels mentor wants to build a strong foundation for his playing squad in the hope of his players progressing through to SG Ball – and ultimately, the top grade.
“We’ve got some talent here – the Roosters don’t have a massive junior depth so it’s a battle week-to-week, but the main thing is getting them to compete so they can transition into SG Ball,” Jones says.
“We’ve got four guys that are actually playing above their age and because there are a few boys that are here out of district, this is their first time.
“So we’ve got to make sure that we’re precise in our training and we’ve accustomed our time to focus on gelling the team and get straight to our skills.
“Building that culture in the 11 weeks up to today has been difficult and a challenge, but over the next few weeks I’m sure in tough games like this [today] they will build a bit of mateship and put in for each other.”