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Dave Penna. Photo: Tweed Seagulls Media/QRL

Nine clubs will go into this season's Hostplus Cup with a new coach at the helm, in one of the biggest turnovers in recent years.

With the addition of the Western Clydesdales - and kick-off to season 2023 right around the corner - the Queensland Rugby League is profiling our 10 new coaches, whether they're coming from a different club or are completely new to the Cup arena.

In this edition we talk to Tweed Seagulls Dave Penna about his long career in coaching and the talent at his disposal in this year's Hostplus Cup.

Coaching history

Penna has a lengthy and impressive coaching resume. The former Parramatta Eels and South Sydney Rabbitohs player retired from the game in 2000 through injury and the following year started coaching A grade with Eels affiliate club Wentworthville Magpies. During the next 11 years, he worked his way through the ranks, coaching Jersey Flegg and under 20s at Manly Sea Eagles and learning what he could about the trade, before he was offered the assistant coach NRL role at Manly in 2012.

He was assistant coach until the end of the 2015 season, when he then joined the Rabbitohs as an under 20s coach and NRL assistant. He held these roles for one year and then moved over to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, where he was NRL assistant coach for 2017 and 2018. 

It was at this point Penna decided to take a step back from coaching and joined Tweed Seagulls as a recruitment and pathways manager in 2019 - a move he said was the "best thing" for him.

At the end of the 2019 season, he became the head of football at the Seagulls. Penna will continue that role this year as well as taking on the responsibilities of being the club's Hostplus Cup coach.

Penna was also the assistant coach of the Toa Samoa rugby league team for seven years, including during their 2017 World Cup campaign.

Dave Penna. Photo: Tweed Seagulls Media/QRL
Dave Penna. Photo: Tweed Seagulls Media/QRL

Q&A with Dave Penna

What did it mean to you to be named coach of Tweed's Hostplus Cup team?

I’m really looking forward to it. Everyone says, 'why would you do that?' and 'you have enough work as it is', but it’s my downtime. It keeps me sane. I love being around the players again and I’ve learnt a lot over my career. I’ve been able to study all the coaches at all the grades. It’s given me an understanding of things I could have been better at. I’m just looking forward to doing it again, but who knows, I might have to sack myself.

What is your coaching philosophy?

You’ve got to coach to what your team needs. It’s not my team, it’s their team. My big coaching philosophy is to just coach. Every individual needs help, no matter how experienced they are. That’s my job - to make sure any player is better than where they started.

Who would you say is your mentor or strongest influence in coaching?

It would be unfair of me to say just one. I’ve been really, really lucky to work under some great coaches in the NRL. I did 12 years with Des Hasler and four with Geoff Toovey and I was lucky to work for a year with Michael Maguire and also Brad Arthur for a number of years. Every one of them are great coaches and have their own different philosophies and mannerisms. As soon as you think you know everything, you should give it away. Every year you’re learning something different. All those coaches have great philosophies in their game. You have a bit of yourself and then take a little bit of what you can learn from them.

What are your first impressions of your squad for this season?

I have a lot of great leaders in the squad, players that are very experienced at this level. I’m looking forward to revitalising them and hopefully we don’t need to change a lot. (Former coach) Ben Woolf has done a fantastic job. I’ve been very lucky to step into programs and systems that these guys have put in place.

What are your goals for season 2023?

We’ve always put ourselves in the right positions at the business end of the year. But I’d like to see us improve, week-to-week, in those areas we need to improve on to take us a bit further.

Who within your squad will make their mark in 2023?

We’re very, very lucky to have players who are still relatively young in their careers. For me to single out anyone is hard. There's Brent Woolf, Ryland Jacobs, Will Brimson, Lindon McGrady, Lee Turner... we've also been lucky enough to pick up Lloyd Perrett. I’m missing a lot of players. but these are players I believe could do a job in any NRL club. That's been my opinion for the past three years. Unfortunately they haven’t got there yet but I’d love to see that happen for them.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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