Former Tweed Seagulls mentor Ben Woolf knows all too well the value of coaching in the Queensland Rugby League’s statewide competitions.
Woolf last year finished up as Tweed’s Hostplus Cup head coach after signing with the St George Illawarra Dragons as an NRL assistant coach.
This weekend Woolf will share his story with 75 statewide competitions coaches – from BMD Premiership, Mal Meninga Cup, Harvey Norman Under 19, Cyril Connell Cup and the inaugural Under 17 girls competition – as part of the Future Maroons Coaching Conference at the Gold Coast.
Woolf – who is a former teacher from famed rugby league nursery, Keebra Park State High School – said he found his time in the Hostplus Cup to be beneficial in many ways.
“As a coach, it’s very multi-dimensional,” Woolf said.
“Our team was a feeder club (to the Titans) so it gave us an exposure to an NRL system and we had that opportunity to learn about those systems.
“But in the QRL - as opposed to the NSW Cup, which I’m also involved now - you still have the opportunity to coach your own team and set up your own systems while getting that knowledge from the NRL clubs.
“That’s the big benefit Hostplus Cup coaches have. They run their own team wholly and solely.”
Ben Woolf talks life with Dragons
Woolf - who said he is still learning everyday at the NRL level, with the Dragons now under the guidance of Shane Flanagan – will be part of a Q&A with Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons coach Tahnee Norris and fellow Cup to NRL graduate and former Burleigh mentor, Jim Lenihan.
He said he would touch on a number of topics, including the importance of encouraging effort areas in coaching.
But one message he really hopes to get across to the up-and-coming coaches in attendance is how to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead in 2024.
“It’s about them understanding that there is a pathway through to the NRL from the QRL pathways,” Woolf said.
“If you’re willing to work hard and apply yourself, that pathway is there.
“Getting an opportunity at different levels is really difficult. Whether you’re trying to progress from the under ages, like Cyril Connell into Mal Meninga or Mal Meninga into Cup level, it’s difficult to get those opportunities to coach at those levels.
“Staying in those systems is definitely a big challenge to coaches up there.
“Then the age groups they’re working with, it’s about finding the balance between winning competitions and developing players.
“That’s a big one and it can get lost in trying to win competitions at any level, particularly the juniors. There has to be an element of developing individual players as well.
“It’s a challenge to find that balance. When they’re coaching 17s and 19s, it’s important they’re helping individuals get better while also having team success and finding the balance between the two.”
As well as the panel involving Woolf, Norris and Lenihan, the Future Maroons Coaching Conference will also have an address from QRL CEO Ben Ikin, a Q&A with Swimming Australia head coach Rohan Taylor, and a coaching workshop with Neil Henry, Matt Ballin and Nathan Cross.