DANNY Maiava packs his boots in his footy bag every Saturday.
This year the former Manu Samoa prop has had reason to dust them off only for the occasional celebrity appearance in third grade.
It hasn’t always been like that. Not long ago, Maiava, 50 next birthday, was anchoring Lake Macquarie’s first-grade scrum.
He was also first-grade coach, club president, sponsorship manager and talent scout.
He has held at least one, usually more, of those titles since agreeing to ‘‘help out’’ the Roos in 2004.
Every off-season his phone has rung hot with offers from other clubs.
Each has been met with a ‘‘thanks but no thanks’’.
It was that loyalty that led to Maiava answering an SOS from the Roos last season.
The battling club were at their lowest ebb. They had been embarrassed 102-0 by Hamilton and in 10 games had scored just 70 points and conceded 617.
Coach Paul Eather had left and they needed salvation.
They found it in Maiava, and on Saturday the Roos will play Merewether for a place in the grand final against Hamilton.
Maiava had taken a back seat at the Roos to help Scott Coleman with the Newcastle representative team and was focusing more on his commitments with the Australia Samoa Rugby Union.
But, as he has always done, Maiava agreed to lend a hand.
‘‘In the space of a week we went from getting beaten by 100 by Hamilton to going down by a dozen or so points,’’ first-grade hooker and club stalwart Matt Bartley said. ‘‘It was a huge turnaround.’’
Success doesn’t come through luck.
Maiava started planning the moment the whistle blew on last season.
His first call was to strength and conditioning coach Bob Harrison, whom Maiava had worked with at the Newcastle Wildfires in 1999.
‘‘Had it been anyone else I would have said no,’’ Harrison said. ‘‘Danny is one of those blokes who engenders loyalty. ‘‘He had formulated a plan. It was brilliant. It encompassed everything: the community aspect, the charity aspect, the football side.
‘‘He put to the board that if the club was going to move forward, they had to improve their off-field performance as much as their on-field. Here is the plan.
‘‘That is where blokes like [president] John Newton came on board.
‘‘The committee has stepped up and taken on a lot of the responsibility.
‘‘In previous years Danny has been the lone soldier.’’
Maiava lured Junior To’o, Alo brothers Ray and Dave and Matt Clarke from Sydney. Mika Taufaao returned from Mackay and brought cousin John with him mid-season.
‘‘Danny is prince of a village in Samoa and hierarchy is very big in those islander communities,’’ Harrison said.
‘‘He has the instant respect of the islander community. It is the way he talks to the players and the respect he has for them. They just love him.
‘‘Apart from that he is a very good coach. Technically he is strong. He pores over statistics from here, there and everywhere. When I arrive at training he will have been there for 45 minutes, watched a video and be armed with stats and all sorts of stuff.
‘‘Most sessions, I run them through what we need to run them through, and he will pull out individual players and work with them.
‘‘He is happy for other people to come on board and throw their five cents worth in, challenge him in decisions. That is the sort of coach he is.’’
Although he has not officially committed to next year, it is unlikely the media-shy Maiava will leave the Roos.
‘‘Knowing the type of bloke Danny is, he wouldn’t walk away until the job was finished,’’ Bartley said.
As for the boots ...
‘‘He plays 20 minutes in thirds and has his fix for six weeks,’’ Bartley laughed.