Cricket: Folkes fit for Windies challenge

By Chris Rattue

For a man who had a notoriously stressful year, Steve Folkes looks calm and relaxed at Eden Park.

The former Canterbury Bulldogs coach has made one of sport's stranger transitions, swapping the hard yards of league for the wonders and mysteries of the West Indian cricket team.

The trim, super-fit looking Sydneysider, aged 48, is on a six-month assignment as the Windies strength and conditioning coach.

For the past year, the West Indies' physio has been doing both jobs, but Folkes - surprisingly small for a former world class league forward - is on board to try to help the Calypso Kings regain former glories.

"They've already climbed one place in the rankings since I started - without playing a game," the quietly spoken Folkes says with a wee laugh.

Just a few weeks into the gig, Folkes is still feeling his way into a job that might evolve or else turn into an interlude before he coaches league again, his main aim.

Out of work following the 2008 NRL season, Folkes took up the unusual code switch without hesitation after missing out on the Huddersfield league coaching job. His initial job with the Bulldogs, after retiring as a player, was as a conditioner.

Folkes had a link with the West Indian cricketers. He met their coach John Dyson, a former Aussie opener, many years ago when they were physical education teachers in Sydney.

Folkes, a second rower who played for New South Wales and Australia, was a grade cricketer until 17.

"There are certain crossover aspects but the sports are very different. The contact in league means size, strength and bulk are pretty important whereas in cricket, not so much.

"But speed, agility, flexibility and the stronger a cricketer is the better. If you do the strength business properly there are no issues about flexibility. Just look at gymnasts who are immensely strong yet can put their legs behind their head.

"I think I've been accepted pretty well although whenever a new bloke comes in there are trust issues."

Folkes said West Indians "clearly have some areas with room for improvement".

While he didn't know the standards in cricket, there were obvious differences in physique between the highly trained Australians and his new charges.

Folkes won four premierships as a player and one as coach during 31 years with the powerful Bulldogs but his final season was a nightmare.

It included the high drama over Kiwi Sonny Bill Williams, who walked out mid-season to play union in France.

Folkes has almost nothing to say on that: "It's done and dusted. I haven't thought about it for six months."

Folkes, who announced early in 2008 he would leave the Bulldogs, would love to coach in the NRL again.

"I think I have plenty to offer."

- Newstalk ZB

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