PAUL Nixon looked forward to the phone calls
“G’day maaaate. You want to catch up for a beer” is how the conversation started.
Nixon and Scott Coleman, who was still on his L-plates as a coach, would meet at the Sunnyside Hotel or Coleman’s home and talk rugby over one, two, three beers. Sometimes more.
“He’d ring when he was in two minds over something, generally a tough selection call,” Nixon said. “Invariably, I’d tell him to go with his gut feeling. More times than not it was the correct call.”
The phone calls – and the beers – have become less frequent over the years.
Nixon, a Hamilton stalwart who was on the Romanian coaching staff at the 2003 World Cup, remains a confidant.
“I used to go to training and games and he’d learn off me. Now I go and learn off him,” Nixon said.
Saturday’s grand final against Wanderers will be Coleman’s ninth at the helm of the Hawks, and last for the immediate future as he takes time out to build a new family home.
Victory over their fierce rivals would deliver a third straight premiership and sixth overall for Coleman – a record unlikely to be matched any time soon.
Since Coleman’s appointment in 2006, the Hawks have won titles in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016. They were beaten grand finalists in 2007, 2011 and 2013 and have won 186 of 242 games at a winning percentage of 77.
“When I started in 2006 it was me and Harry Rainbow (manager),” Coleman said. “Now it is a huge operation and nearly a full-time job.”
Coleman’s support staff includes Shannon Mackie (strength and conditioning) Ross Duncan (lineouts and breakdown), Travis Soulsby (scrum), Paul Nixon and Liam Walker (backs), Darren Zorbas (statistics), Angus Harper (video analysis) plus managers and trainers.
“We have tried to improve our professionalism every year, otherwise the pack catches up,” Coleman said. “Every grand final is special. Every new year a challenge.”
Although celebrated, premierships are not everything for the man affectionately known as Bubba.
“Helping Damien Wells turn his life around was probably the biggest success story,” Coleman said. “I met him on the tail end of a three-day bender when he rode a pushbike up my driveway.He was all over the shop. I gave him some work and the club environment really helped him.”
Indeed, Coleman has been coach, employer, landlord … you name it.
“Every Kiwi that has come to town has lived with me until we found them a place,” he said. “I had one rob me. I had a Texas Holdem Poker Set, he knocked off all the $500 chips. He thought they were real and took them to a casino.”
Friendships have been forged and fractured.
“You have your ups and downs,” he says. “You live and learn. I have always tried to be honest. You have to be up front,especially if you drop a player.”
By his side has been wife Gill and more recently children, Sophia and James.
“Gill is a huge support,” he said. “She sees the enjoyment I get out out it. We have tried to make it a family club.”
Coleman lost two huge influences on his coaching – and life – when his father, Greg and close friend Mick Curry died within 12 months of each other in 2014-15. They shared the nickname “Whale”.
Winning the 2015 premiership in honour of Curry remains one of Coleman’s most satisfying moments.
Greg, a leaguey, played in the front-row for Penrith’s reserve grade and captain-coached in Canowindra and Kempsey before settling in South West Rocks, where Scott and brothers Darren, Matt and Grant were born.
“Dad was a strong character and instilled in us to put others first,” Coleman said.
Older brother Darren is a highly successful coach. He steered Warringah to a Shute Shield premiership last month and is at the helm of NSW Country Eagles..
“Darren and Nicho are my sounding boards,” Bubba said. “Tactically, I get a lot of stuff off Darren. If I want to bounce some ideas I call Nicho and we go for a beer.”
So what stands out about Coleman, a knockabout larrikin who mostly looks like he has just climbed out of bed, as a coach.
“You don’t get any BS with him,” Nixon said. “That does upset some people. You might not like what you hear every time, but you respect them. Technically and tactically there are few with his knowledge. He is really good at picking opportunities, and doing it on e the run. He doesn’t have to watch hundreds of hours of video. He can watch the first half of a game and say at the break we are going to attack here now and this is the reason why. He always explains why.”