When the Herald sat down to interview Maguire recently, it was apparent that little is known about the coach and his interests away from rugby league.
“You probably don’t ask the right questions,” Maguire fires back. “You always want to go to the other stuff. I’ve got plenty of different interests.”
But even when asked the “right questions”, Maguire reverts back to an old school give-em-nothing approach that – for the most part – has served him well throughout his coaching career.
“It’s nothing that I want to share,” he says. But it’s that very demeanour that amplifies a perception that is backed up by the stories of boa constrictors and baseball bats in dressing rooms, or how South Sydney players used to get fined for using certain words in the media.
“If they are doing it on the park, doesn’t that do the talking?” Maguire asks. “I get we need to do our part to promote the game and those sorts of things, but the success on the park is what creates the greatest ride.
“If I see my players successful and the boys enjoying the ride of what happens when you win a grand final, they get to see what’s real. Because I saw a lot of fans [at Souths] enjoying that ride. They are the ones I care about. I saw a lot of Souths fans living in hope. It went from hope to actually believing it. Then it was that belief that helped us achieve it. That’s more special than people knowing about what I do away from footy.
“The players may say certain things about how hard it was, but I tell you when they were doing that lap around that field with the trophy on grand final day, it was a pretty great moment. They are things this club deserves. That’s why I was so keen to come here.”
On day one of pre-season, following a year of stories questioning his coaching methods and their effectiveness on the modern-day footballer, Maguire addressed a squad shorn of over 1000 games of experience. While his demands had previously been met with raised eyebrows by senior players, his audience is now largely receptive.
“I think we all know times have changed and you need to handle each person in a different light,” Maguire said. “But I’m also dealing with men. I’m not dealing with kids here. It is the responsibility of the senior guys to set a tone around what they want to achieve. If they go after that and they set standards, it influences the young ones.
“You’re growing these men to take ownership of what they are doing. We need leaders to help these younger generations realise that life is not easy. There are challenges, but if you fight through those challenges, it’s amazing what you can achieve.”
Maguire won’t go into detail about how his once-strong relationship with Tigers legend Benji Marshall deteriorated after he dropped the five-eighth following the round four loss to the Gold Coast Titans.
But Maguire made no apologies when asked if he made unnecessary changes that ultimately led to the players, in a private team meeting, admitting they were “walking on eggshells” around their coach.
“I’ve come to the club to make it successful,” Maguire said. “Did I make change for stimulation last year? Yeah, I did. At times it worked, at times it didn’t. But if you keep doing the same you’ll end up the same. I think sometimes you have to be able to get people out of their comfort zone to go to another level.”
Some at the Wests Tigers last year – both in the playing group and head office – questioned Maguire’s stomach for the fight when reports emerged that he had thrown his hat in the ring for other jobs.
Maguire admits he questioned his ability to succeed in the task of turning the joint venture into the powerhouse it could be given its membership and junior nursery. But he insists that, in the end, it only strengthened his resolve.
“Along the way people are going to talk and chatter and ask questions,” Maguire said of the speculation that he was looking for another job.
“Did I have thoughts around how large the challenges ahead of me were going to be? Definitely, I’m not going to lie about that. When I sat down and the Wests Tigers became a club that was available to come to, it was the one I actually wanted. I see the size of the club and the momentum that will get behind the Wests Tigers is enormous. I feel that’s coming.
“Have I seen the change as fast as I would have liked? Probably not. There are more challenges in this job than what I’ve experienced before, but we will make this club successful.”
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald