HARRY Rainbow saw a lot of coach in the way Scott Coleman captained Hamilton.
Rainbow was at the helm and Coleman was skipper in 2004 when the Hawks finished fifth.
Nearly a decade on, Coleman, the coach, will deliver his final pre-game instructions to the Hawks, for now at least, before they take on The Waratahs in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union grand final at No. 2 Sportsground today.
A win would seal a fourth premiership under the knockabout "chippy" from South West Rocks.
It would also be the first time a team has gone back-to-back in the post Newcastle Wildfires era (since 2000) - Maitland were the last in 1998-99 - and put an exclamation mark on a second consecutive club championship.
Regardless of the result, Coleman will depart for Italy next week and a full-time gig at Serie A club Benevento as one of the most successful coaches in the history of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union.
Since taking the reins solo in 2006 - he served a year apprenticeship as a co-coach alongside Andy Kilgour and Peter Quinn in 2005 - "Bubba" has guided the Hawks to 126 wins from 165 games at a phenomenal percentage of 76.36.
The lowest they have finished on the table was fourth in his maiden season. He brought premierships to Passmore Oval in 2008, 2010 and 2012 and combined playing with coaching until 2009.
Stacey Sykes has won 49 of 62 games at nearly 80 per cent at Merewether over the past three years, highlighted by an undefeated campaign in 2011.
Danny Gresham took the all-conquering Singleton to a minor premiership in 1993 and back-to-back undefeated titles in 94-95 before handing the reins to Ross Langsford for the hat-trick.
But in terms of longevity, few can match Coleman.
"I'm not surprised that he has been successful," said Rainbow, who first encountered Coleman when the baby-faced hooker followed his elder brother Darren down from the mid-north coast to play colts with the Newcastle Wildfires.
Darren, before Bubba, made the transition from player to coach. He is currently at Japanese club Toyota and had stints in Italy, Canada, the NSW Waratahs and ACT Brumbies.
"There was always a lot of coach in Bubba when he was captain," Rainbow said.
"He is a great organiser on and off the field. Realistically, he was always working towards becoming a coach.
"It was almost a natural progression."
In the modern coaching world of player loads, red zones and collision areas, Coleman is somewhat of a throwback.
He is more casual comfort than sophisticated chic - jeans and dress shirt (untucked) is as formal as he gets. He enjoys a beer and, until the birth this year of his daughter, Sophia, was often the last standing.
"If you look at that and think that is the limit of his ability, you are not taking into account that he is an astute individual, certainly at rugby, and as a tradesman," Rainbow said.
"Again it is something that extends beyond the Bubba image."
At 36, Coleman is entering the next phase of his coaching career at an age where most start.
"It was something I was always interested in and wanted to do," Coleman said.
"Once I did that first year, I think I was 28, I got a taste for it and a passion for it.
"I have been lucky in that I had Darren and Paul Nixon to call on, get ideas from and run things by. They have been great confidantes.
"When Darren was at the Brumbies, I went down every pre-season and studied what they did.
"When I first started, it was definitely wins and losses, success which mattered most. That is always a buzz.
"But in the past couple of years, I have matured more as a coach and just watching the players and the team develop - seeing a game plan evolve and a focus on a team atmosphere rather than just individuals - is just as, if not more, satisfying."
After 14 years in the Hawks nest as a player and coach, Benevento presents a whole new ball game.
Coleman is fortunate that Darren coached there in 2003 and remains well respected and connected. A new language is not the only challenge.
He is picking up his young family - wife Jill and six-month old daughter Sophia - and moving to the other side of the world where there is no network, no-one to call on.
"Jill has been a great support and very understanding," he said.
"It is a big move but an exciting one.
"In terms of coaching it is a new frontier for me
"Obviously, I have given it a fair bit of thought. I see my best attribute, without blowing my trumpet, as being able to bring grown men together.
"Bonding and wanting to play for each other and having a team atmosphere.
"Replicating that over there where I don't speak the language will be a big challenge.
"It will be a culture shock. From what Darren has said Benevento is not that social. They might have two wines after a game and that is it.
"I will have to sharpen up on the other aspects of my coaching as far as tactics and skill-based teaching.
"To be honest that is the main reason I took the job, to give myself a challenge."
But first is today and beating the Tahs.
"Back-to-back club championships has been a massive achievement and back-to-back premierships would be a good way to finish off," he said.
"In saying that, I'm not too worried about myself, but it would be a fantastic reward for the players and club."