Wests Tigers Head Coach Michael Maguire said he was looking forward to the start of the season this Saturday at Leichhardt Oval as he also makes his return to coaching at club level.
The current Coach of the New Zealand Kiwis, Maguire emphasised his delight to have remained coaching at the international level following his departure from South Sydney, but said he was thrilled to be returning to the club coaching level.
"I can't wait — it's been a fair break from the last time I coached," Maguire laughed.
"I've had the international commitments which is great, but the club is great fun and I'm looking forward to seeing a great crowd there at Leichhardt Oval and putting on a good performance for them, which is what we're all about.
"I'm not sure it's butterflies, but I'm really looking forward to it. It's what I enjoy doing, and I'm looking forward to when the players run out there for this club.
"I've been really pleased with how the boys have come together," he added.
"We've done a lot of work — just like every other club — but now we're looking forward to using that work with a good performance in front of our fans.
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"I've got a lot of belief around this group. I spoke with the senior leaders before I got here and they were all really positive about where the club is moving to and they've really guided a lot of the stuff we did throughout pre-season to where we are now.
"I'm really happy with what we've done; it's about using it all now.
"We've made a number of changes with how we want to attack and defend, and they've all really bought in to that so we're looking forward to seeing it on the park."
While much of the talk in the pre-season centred on who would fill the number six jersey — Benji Marshall or Josh Reynolds — Maguire said the key man would in fact be the number seven, the reigning Dally M Halfback of the Year in Luke Brooks.
"I think the growing of this team started with Brooksy re-signing," Maguire said.
"I'm a really big believer in him.
"I'm really pleased with what he's been doing throughout the pre-season — he's a strong kid and I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes this year.
"He's had a really strong pre-season with the work that he's done and I can see a lot of upside in his game. I've been able to work with a few different players that I've been able to grow throughout my time as a coach, and I think that Brooksy has a lot of room for growth in his game, and he knows that there's a lot of work to be done.
"For me, that's the really pleasing thing that he knows there's things to improve too."
Brooks: "This is my team to run"
The new coach also had a special comment for 21-year-old forward Thomas Mikaele, who will become the first player to make his NRL debut for Wests Tigers under Maguire after impressing the coach throughout the pre-season.
"He's been really strong," Maguire said.
"He's put the work in throughout the pre-season so he deserves his opportunity.
"He trialled well against the Warriors; he got a bit of a bang there in his first contact but he got back up and kept going. I've been pleased with him and I'm really looking to our players' performances throughout the year making our team.
"As a coach, I really like being able to see a young man come through and perform.
"To play his first first-grade game and then see him go on to do great things is something that's pretty special as a coach and I'm really pleased for him."