Turning dreams into a reality - that's the goal of new Queensland Rugby League male pathways coach Guy Williams.
Williams wants to help more players go from running around in the yard dreaming of one day being the next Daly Cherry-Evans or Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, to running out at Suncorp Stadium in maroon.
There have been 221 men who have represented the Queensland Maroons at State of Origin level, and in his new role, Williams wants to help make this process easier for players by providing them with the tools to turn their hard work and dreams into reality.
“The role is about developing players to one day play State of Origin for Queensland – that’s as simple as it is,” Williams said.
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The remit may be simple, but there is plenty of important work to be done to properly build the foundations needed to make this happen, beginning with coach development.
“It’s about working with coaches and clubs and people out there to improve the level of our players and make sure they continue to develop through the age groups and give themselves a shot of playing for Queensland,” Williams said.
“There is a real opportunity in coach development. In the past, we have had coaches do the formal NRL coaching courses… and that was it.
“For most, they haven’t had that opportunity to be developed or work with mentor coaches to improve them, or to even have them as people they can reach out to or bounce ideas off.
“From my perspective, it’s a really good opportunity to develop our coaches throughout Queensland and with that, they are going to be able to influence players and spread that out through their coaching networks.
“It’s about raising the level of our players by improving the level of our coaches.”
A player with more than 200 games of experience at Cup level with Central Queensland and Norths Devils, Williams also featured in the NRL with the Brisbane Broncos and enjoyed his experiences playing the game in France.
With his playing background, Williams is keenly aware of how important it is for players to have fun while they are learning the game.
“Footy training and playing games on the weekend is something that I remember as being a really enjoyable experience for me and I think it’s important that our players enjoy it… and when they are thinking about training tonight, they are not dreading it and they are thinking ‘hey, I am looking forward to going tonight’ and all players want to get better,” Williams said.
“If a player walks away from a session and says ‘I have learnt something today’ or ‘I feel like I am better than before I started it’, then they are pleased and will turn up again.”
Serving as head coach with the Capras in the Intrust Super Cup last year, Williams also previously held coaching roles in the junior and senior ranks with the Devils and Wavell State High and knows first-hand the challenges that can be faced when in charge of a team.
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Always studious as a player, the former journalist and teacher said his transition into the coaching ranks came somewhat naturally and he was lucky to have the support of a mentor as he learned the ropes.
“I have worked with some really good coaches and had the opportunity to transition into being a coach,” Williams said.
“I know for some players, playing is where it ends, but I had the opportunity to be mentored by Rohan Smith at Norths Devils.
“I always thought I would move into coaching when I finished because as a player I’d take notes as I liked to understand how and why we did things.
“At the end of 2018, I was unsure about whether to play in 2019 at Norths and Rohan said to me ‘if you want to help out with the (Auswide Bank) Mal Meninga Cup side here, go along and see if that’s for you... if you go and say ‘hey it’s not really for me and I want to step away or no, I want to continue on playing’, then you can go down that path.
“I was working with Tristan Thompson who was head coach of the 18s at the time and I really enjoyed it... I felt that I wanted to be a part of this here and that’s how I transitioned into it.”
With his feet now under the desk at the QRL, having officially started on January 10, the first priority is working with statewide competition coaches with the male junior statewide competitions kicking off in late February.
From there, the representative programs will also come into play with the Queensland under 19 interstate match and the City versus Country under 17 match.
However, while the attention is on representative pathways and development, a rising tide raises all ships and Williams hopes to see all players participating in Queensland’s competitions benefit from improved standards of coaching across the board.
The RISE program was introduced across the QRL last year and will continue to play a big role in expanding the knowledge base of players and coaches.
“I think there might be a bit of misconception about what the RISE program is... it’s not purely for players, it’s for our coaches to get an opportunity to work with some really experienced coaches, with Neil Henry heading up that program, and develop themselves as coaches,” Williams said.
“For the players, I know there are some opportunities to develop their skills but there is some work on areas off the field in terms of mindset and sports psychology and also nutrition, wellness and sleep.
“There’s a number of different areas there that help make a rugby league player and you have to be conscious of all of them.”