Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

College Sport: Price to coach MAGS

Former Warriors captain Steve Price.  Photo / NZ Herald
Former Warriors captain Steve Price. Photo / NZ Herald

He has always insisted he didn't want to be a coach but former Warriors captain Steve Price will make the first - albeit small - step in that direction this year.

Price, who retired from playing at the end of the 2010 season, will be in charge of the league programme at Mt Albert Grammar School, including the 1st XIII.

The 38-year-old, whose two children (including new Magic netballer Jamie-Lee) attend the school, has been a mentor for league teams at MAGS the past two years.

"Coaching has never been something I have targeted," says Price. "It wasn't a priority for me. But if I am ever going to have a try, then this is the time, as I am quite flexible at the moments in terms of my commitments."

As well as the challenge, stepping into the head coach role has eased pressure in the Price household.

"The wife and the mother-in-law have been getting into me for a while," laughs Price.

"I'd come home from matches talking about what they should have done and where things could be improved. They both told me to stop whinging and just go and do it; then you will find out if you are any good."

One of Price's first initiatives will be to get some of the school's famous league alumni - which include Steve Matai, Sam McKendry, Matthew Ridge and Sonny Bill Williams - involved in the programme.

"I've been told - I'm not sure if it's true - that MAGS has produced more Kiwis than All Blacks," says Price. "There is certainly a real legacy here and it would be great to get guys like Sonny and Steve involved."

The legitimisation of league at college level - after decades where students had to play rugby and were sometimes barred from the 13-man game - means Price is involved at an opportune time.

"I don't see it as rugby versus league," says Price, "but if there are kids that have been brought up with the game and they are rugby league kids why can't they play rugby league?"

Other former students like Fred Ah Kuoi and John Ackland were unable to play league at school while the 1982 1st XV - the school's first national champions - featured league players Se'e Solomona and James Goulding who became Kiwis. McKendry also played 1st XV until he arrived at school one day and said he couldn't play any more, as he had just signed a contract with Penrith.

Price has fond recollections of his own school days, with his small Toowoomba school (Harristown State High School) progressing to the Commonwealth Bank Cup final, before losing by one point to powerful Sydney school Fairfield Patrician Brothers. He wants to run a tight ship - on and off field.

"Your standards need to be high in everything that you do," says Price. "It helps you in sport but also in life. Success comes from the habits you get into and the opportunities you give yourself."

Aside from the 1st XIII competition, which starts in May, MAGS also plan to enter a girls' team in an under-15 competition and a boys' under-15 league nines tournament.

- Herald on Sunday

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