The rugby league world is mourning the passing of 'Supercoach' Jack Gibson, the 79-year-old who died after a long battle with Alzheimer's and who revolutionised the coaching role in the game during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.
Gibson won a total of five premierships, guiding Eastern Suburbs to back-to-back grand final triumphs in 1974-75 and then steering Parramatta to a rare hat-trick between 1981-83. No team since Gibson's Eels have won three successive grand finals. Former Kiwis coach Graham Lowe pays tribute.
The Passing of Australian Rugby League supercoach Jack Gibson on Friday might have gone unnoticed by many people in New Zealand.
But some of us were touched by his magic and know his greatness will never be seen again. I smile when I hear various coaches and TV commentators tossing out one liners as though they had just thought of them. I've rarely heard a phrase from them that had not originated from Jack.
My first contact with him was in 1974 when I was coaching the Otahuhu third grade. We were a good side, boasting players like Mark Graham, Gary Prohm and Owen Wright. I was always, even at that stage, trying to come up with a point of difference or edge over our opponents.
In those days, most of our Australian League information came from , Rugby League Week. It was not for sale in New Zealand but there were always plenty doing the rounds in Auckland.
I used to read about Jack's style and the different way he approached coaching. I was fascinated by it and wrote to him, not expecting a reply. But a few weeks later I got his return letter and it changed me as a coach. I kept in touch but didn't meet him until 1979 when I went over to Brisbane to coach Norths.
By that time, I was a Gibson disciple, fully integrated to his methods and had worked them successfully with Otahuhu.
But it was when I met him that, looking back, I realised what it meant to be a coach.
I got a call from him at 6am one day. He was staying on the Gold Coast preparing for a keynote address to the Chamber of Commerce. He said he didn't have much time but if I wanted to come down he'd spend most of the morning with me.
The road from Brisbane to Surfers was a bit of a drag and took about two hours to drive. I think I made it in three-quarters of an hour. I was at his hotel by 8.30am and stayed with him until I dropped him off at his speaking venue at midday.
Jack was eating bacon and eggs for breakfast, washed down with whisky. He was a very unusual man. From that morning, we remained very good friends and, until his health got the better of him, we were in regular contact. I loved the man and what he stood for.
From that first meeting at Surfers Paradise, I faced many challenges in rugby league and life. He was my mentor. Simplicity was his key. And only a few years ago he tried hard to encourage me to coach again. With struggling words he said: "What is different now? Coaching is coaching, players are players and they still need a strong coach.
"Teams need coaches with an understanding of what a team stands for, not a coach who can run round the field with them or run a mile." In other words, he was saying a coach doesn't need to be physically fit - but did need to have knowledge of the game and to impart that knowledge to others and motivate them and to have the wit to find an advantage for his team.
When I retired from coaching at Manly because of my health I received two letters I treasured. One was from the then St George coach Brian Smith. It was a moving letter that only one coach can give to another.
The other was from Jack. I thought my health issues were the end of the world at the time and was feeling very sorry for myself.
Jack in his own way convinced me that all was not done. He said if I managed to keep my football brain, nothing would ever change. It hasn't.
Sure, I've faced some difficult times with my health, but as the wise old man of coaching told me, people are empowering, not systems.
Like he did, I believe coaching challenges are very similar to the challenges we face in business or in life. There is no secret to it. Life is simple, so is coaching. If you want to make it complicated, you will struggle.
That is why he will always be the greatest coach of all time as far as I, and many others, are concerned.
We will miss him.