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Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire

Michael Maguire's time with South Sydney ended less than three years after he won a NRL premiership with the foundation club in 2014, snapping a 43-year wait.

"I was like a kid in a toy store when the toys are taken away from you. You seem fine but deep down it hurts, you lose a bit of confidence. I'm obviously human so I felt all that," he said.

"But it also put a lot of perspective around what I do now.

"Not to say I wasn't enjoying it before but the passion I've got around turning up for work now, bringing a team back together again, building a team once more, well it's bigger."

Maguire, or "Madge" as he's known around league circles (read on for how he got the nickname), is sipping on a piccolo in a café in Redfern, not far from where he spent six seasons as Rabbitohs head coach. It all came crashing down in September 2017, when the board sacked him while still under contract.

He spent the early part of 2018 with a lot of time on his hands.

"I'm a very routine-oriented person. It's what we do as players and coaches – our routine," he said.

"So there was a big space there I found it difficult at the start to fill. You're waking up every day looking to build your team and then it's all gone."

Michael Maguire took Souths to the top of the mountain in 2014.
Michael Maguire took Souths to the top of the mountain in 2014.

"I look back on it now and it was very special time as I had more time to spend with my kids.

"I was also pretty focused on the next opportunity that might come. You're sort of looking and wondering when and what it might be."

Strangely the first call he took didn't come from a rugby league club but the boss of the game.

"When I was told I would be no longer at Souths, Todd Greenberg actually rang me up and said there was a space in the game he'd like me to jump into," Maguire said.

"I didn't really know what that was going to look like and I'm sure he didn't know at the time either.

"But I was able to give my input across many aspects right through from juniors, five-year-olds, right through to referees and how they do things. I worked with leadership groups inside the game."

Then the coaching jobs started to pop up and Maguire started applying.

Michael Maguire puts the Kiwi through their paces in 2018.
Michael Maguire puts the Kiwi through their paces in 2018. ©Bernard Platt

First he became New Zealand head coach and then he became the eighth coach for the Wests Tigers since the joint-venture club entered the NRL in 2000.

Other rep coaches – Brad Fittler (NSW), Kevin Walters (Qld), Mal Meninga (Australia) – don't have a NRL team but Wayne Bennett does.

Bennett now wears the famous cardinal and myrtle colours Maguire used to as well as mentoring England.

I was like a kid in a toy store when the toys are taken away from you. You seem fine but deep down it hurts

Michael Maguire

"I can do both definitely," Maguire said.

"The Kiwis are a great group of men and they are building something as we move forward.

"The strength of their leadership and senior players is great to see."

And Maguire sees that mirrored in the Tigers.

"There is a terrific group of support staff, performance guys and coaches at the club, which allows me to go and do the Kiwis.

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"And I have a great group of senior players at the Tigers … really good guys who will take this club forward to great heights," he said of Chris Lawrence, Robbie Farah, Benji Marshall, Russell Packer, Elijah Taylor, Luke Brooks and new skipper Moses Mbye.

The fact three of them are former Kiwis stars only intensifies the bond Maguire is already forging at the Tigers.

Benji Marshall is a key man in Maguire's plans for 2019.
Benji Marshall is a key man in Maguire's plans for 2019. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

But Maguire's strictness in training, intensity in commitment, were viewed as some of the reasons behind his sacking – he was too hard on his players.

"I don't know and it's not my concern," Maguire said, when asked why he had that reputation.

"I've been fortunate to utilise my knowledge of coaching across a few organisations."

Maguire was Storm assistant coach at four grand finals (2006-09), head coach at Wigan (2010-11) where he claimed the Super League title, and then the Rabbitohs and another trophy. Enough said.

"You have subtle changes as a coach in the way you do things. And for me it is really dependent on the group you're working with as well.

"I'll let people make up their own minds. As long as I've got my playing group heading towards where we all want to go, then I'm satisfied with what anyone says about me."

He missed rugby league so much you wonder if Maguire thinks he's a better coach, or at least a more well-rounded one.

"I'm probably a wiser coach now. I'm just really enjoying every day. When something disappears after you've enjoyed it a lot, and then you get it back, you just go for it.

"I just love coaching again."

But alongside the euphoria he's under no illusions that in the end it's all about wins.

"I actually really enjoy that [pressure]. Believe it or not I missed the fact that each week we could see our outcomes – that doesn't happen for a lot of people," he said.

"You want the win but sometimes you don't get it. So you rally around each other again and go for it the next week."

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And as the piccolos are draining, 'Madge on Sunday' asks 'Madge' Maguire how he acquired a girl's name normally the short form for Magdalene, Marjorie or Margaret (that is how this columnist got it from her sisters).

"That is a really good question. Right through my family – all my brothers and cousins – once we hit school age, every single one of us was given the nickname 'Madge' – it's across all us Maguires," he explains.

"And I don't know why or where Madge came from. I've got two brothers and loads of cousins so if we're all at a party and someone says 'Hey, Madge' about 20 people turn around."