Thecoaching appointment of Brendon Reeves at Corrimal comes with a stern warning.
The former Steelers and Manly fullback is well aware of the enormity of the challenge awaiting him, trying to turn the Cougars into a competitive force against Illawarra Coal League premiers Thirroul and powerhouse clubs Helensburgh, Wests and Collegians.
Reeves refuses to shy away from the task, he knows his brief as coach is to make the hard decisions.
“Let me be blunt, it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
“You hear a lot of coaches come in with a plan over a few years, but the reality is, success isn’t going to happen overnight.
“People will need to be really patient, because this is a club which had zero wins last season.
“But the club has been open about what’s ahead and I believe I’m the right man for the job.”
Reeves is familiar with the rugby league landscape in the region, making his Steelers debut in 1996, before joining Manly in 1999, the year St George Illawarra started as a joint venture.
He played 144 games, 99 with the Sea Eagles – or Northern Eagles – before being forced into retirement in 2003 because of ongoing knee and back injuries.
His retirement paved the way for Brett Stewart to make his way into the NRL.
Reeves likened his appointment to Des Hasler’s arrival at Manly in 2004 when the Sea Eagles were wallowing near the foot of the NRL ladder.
By 2005, Hasler took the club to the finals, before making the grand final in 2007 and winning their first title since 1996 with the 40-nil demolition of Melbourne in 2008.
“I’ve been in situations where teams have been down the bottom for a couple of years, like it was when I finished at Manly,” he said.
“But look at what Des Hasler did when he came in there, it took him a couple of years, but the club has been a force ever since.”
Reeves almost tasted premiership success in the Illawarra competition when coaching Wests in 2005.
The Red Devils were edged out 16-14 in the grand final by Collegians, with Reeves at the helm.
After a stint in Group Six, as well as coaching NSW Schoolboys and other representative teams, Reeves is now charged with delivering Corrimal’s first premiership since 1974.
However, he is adamant he won’t have to tear the club apart to be a September force.
“We’ll look at strengthening a few areas. There’s already been some discussion to identify some weak areas with some signings, but the club already has plenty to work with.
“The first thing for me is to make sure everyone at the club is prepared to work hard and in the same direction and lure a few Corrimal guys back to playing.
“It will also be a matter of working out the situation and what players might be available from the [NSW Cup Illawarra] Cutters next year.”
A Camden school teacher, 38-year-old Reeves lives in the Illawarra and has thrown the doors open for former greats Luke Patten and Ben Hornby to have some involvement with the club.
“All of those local juniors are always welcome. We’d welcome them down at Ziems Park any time.”
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