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Former Canterbury chairman Peter Moore and then coach Phil Gould.

Wedged between playing 104 matches for Penrith, Newtown, Canterbury and South Sydney and his current roles of club management and TV pundit, Phil Gould compiled a superb record in the coaching ranks.

He won grand finals with the Bulldogs and Panthers and is regarded as the best coach the NSW Blues have had.

As well as his ability to read a game, Gould was lauded for the way he got his players ready to perform at their best when it mattered most. 

Titled The Gould Phenomenon, this article first appeared in Rugby League week on May 27, 1993 

David Gillespie can remember two things about the telephone call he received from the victorious NSW boys after the first State of Origin match at Lang Park.

"Cement" was the only Blue from last year's successful campaign to be overlooked on form for the series opener this year.

It was half-past-four in the morning when Paul Harragon and Craig Salvatori (two players selectors preferred ahead of Gillespie), Phil Gould and Ricky Stuart took time out to phone their mate who had been left behind.

Phil Gould playing for Newtown in the 1981 grand final.
Phil Gould playing for Newtown in the 1981 grand final. ©Rugby League Week

"I was out like a light when the phone rang and I thought I was dreaming," Gillespie recalled.

"It's pretty hazy, but I do remember 'Chief' saying 'I wish you were up here, mate'." I said: "So do I . . . nick off!'

"And 'Gus'. He was the first one on the phone.

"When Robbie McCormack came in for Benny [Elias for the second Origin] it was the same. We rang to congratulate him at one in the morning. And 'Gus' was the first one on the phone. He never forgets you ... players remember those things."

Gillespie played under Gould at Canterbury in 1988 when, aged 30, he became the youngest coach to win a premiership.

That year Gould joined Leo Nosworthy, who coached Balmain in 1969, as the only coach to achieve the ultimate success in his initial year.

It was obvious he had a special talent, further confirmed when he steered sides to three grand finals in his first four years, picking up premierships with Canterbury and Penrith and passing Warren Ryan and joining Jack Gibson on coaching achievements with different clubs.

Add his State of Origin record to his resume and it becomes all the more impressive. The win this year in the return Origin match in Sydney made him the first coach to steer NSW to back-to-back wins.

Gould had only lost one game in a premiership finals series in three premiership campaigns (the 1990 grand final) before he became involved with Origin, so the indications were all there that he would be a success.

He has a remarkable ability to prepare and lift sides for a big event.

During his halftime rev-up in the 1991 grand final he accused his boys of playing like losers, and then called on them to send Penrith stalwart Royce Simmons out a winner. They then turned in, in Gould's words, "the most perfect 40 minutes of football they have ever played".

Phil Gould and South Sydney take on Parramatta.
Phil Gould and South Sydney take on Parramatta.

It was a similar scenario in the last Origin match. With the Blues gasping after being pounded by unremitting waves of Maroons, Gould held court within the bowels of the stadium. It was the first time since Gould had been at the helm that NSW had trailed at halftime.

When the hair stands up on the back of your neck, says Gillespie, you know you're ready to play.
Gould was able to stir his men when it mattered most.

Paul Broughton, one of the game's great journeymen, speaks in awe of the ability Gould has to rally his troops.

He's a knock-around bloke who loves a drink and a punt but he knows how to get into your mind

David Gillespie on Phil Gould

"I think 'Gus' Gould comes as near to perfect as you can possibly get in preparing a team," Broughton said. "Along with Jack Gibson, he's the best short-term [State of Origin] coach I've ever listened to.

"I've got to say honestly that in the 45 years I've been involved in football that I've never known a person that has the capacity [without referring to notes] to read a game and at halftime give reasons why a team is doing well and how they can win."

That's one side of Gould's genius. The other is his capacity to communicate.

At halftime in the Sydney Origin, the issue was pride; how the second half was about "finding out what was under the NSW emblem on their jumpers" and "digging deep".

Nothing startling, standard motivation stuff. But he was able to get his players to move mountains. It was not so much the message, but how he delivers it.

"To sit in that dressing room at halftime and see how the players responded was incredible," recalled Broughton.

"I suppose what grabbed me the most was the quieter he spoke, the more intently the players listened. I don't know whether he did it intentionally.

"He told them this and that and they believed him . . . and every damn thing he told them just came off.

Phil Gould in action for Newtown.
Phil Gould in action for Newtown. ©Rugby League Week

"I was standing at the door of the NSW dressing room following Gould's address when I asked one of the players 'how do you feel?'. He responded 'I'm ready to play'.

"That's the exact frame of mind you want to put a player in.

"But you can't come up with a special address at halftime unless you command the respect of the players."

Gould's manner, composed without being aloof and incisive without being arrogant, reflects the respect he shows his players and the respect they give him.

He has an amazingly retentive mind and he takes in everything. He is able to quickly sort the information and formulate a practical set of objectives which his team can grab hold of and chase with a passion.

Broughton expanded on the special respect afforded to Gould when he claims: "There wouldn't have been one player from the State of Origin last year that didn't want 'Gus' back.

I think 'Gus' Gould comes as near to perfect as you can possibly get in preparing a team

Paul Broughton on Phil Gould

"He doesn't want any frightened players around him so everyone gets a say. The players really do respect him. And really that's what the difference is between teams at that level."

Gillespie puts the Gould phenomenon in more simple terms.

"Everyone gets on well when he's around," Gillespie said. "He's a knock-around bloke who loves a drink and a punt but he knows how to get into your mind. He's got this uncanny knack of knowing what to do, and when to do it.

"The last thing we needed in a situation like that (at halftime in the second State of Origin) was someone ripping into us. Queensland had scored against us just before halftime but we had defended very well.

And that's what he told us. If there is a problem he'll get the message across calmly or with humour. The other night he simply told us to keep plugging away - there was no panic, just reassurance.

"That's Gus. I've been at the races with him when he's won lots of money and he doesn't change at all. The times he shows emotion are with his football teams. He draws emotion out in the players.

"With Gus ... you're ready to play."

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