Noble Sentiment

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View from the Bridge 2006-09-05:

Noble Sentiment …

Every so often a press-conference comment or aside will transcend the mundane clichés. Rare, but it does happen. Oftentimes the cordiality of the coach/media relationship means such references never make it into the mainstream media; last Friday I witnessed just such a thing post-match at the Wigan Warriors vs Bradford Bulls Super League Round 26 clash.

It had been a meaty game convincingly won by the home side and riddled with more sub-plots and back-story than a Hollywood scriptwriters’ convention.

Not least of those subplots was the fact that Wigan and GB coach, Brian Noble, was facing his home town club, Bradford – whose coach (Steve McNamara) he had mentored as a player and assistant for a decade – for the very first time.

More than that, the following Wednesday Noble was to attend a ceremony to grant him the ‘Freedom of Bradford’. This guy is a proud white rose, Yorkie, through and through.

What made this press-conference so poignant? The so obvious pain – and maybe guilt – that Noble exhibited at having pulled-off a very important win against a club he so very clearly still loves.

In these days when loyalty is so fragile it was a rare and precious moment; one that gave me pause to think that the paths of the Bulls and Noble may yet converge again in the years to come.

If Noble pulls-off the coup of avoiding Super League relegation with Wigan as now seems likely (indeed he could yet edge them into the playoffs) then … is it mission accomplished and all bets off?

Noble will have more than proved his point to the people who ousted him from the club he loves and Wigan will be safe to turn to the big-name talent so beloved of chairman, Maurice Lindsay.

If the Bulls do come calling Wigan will believe they could easily replace Noble by tempting a top Aussie or New Zealand coach over – oh look, Shaun McRae is free, so is Brian McClellan and Ricky Stewart. All top, glitzy names, to tempt the Warriors.

Or will Wigan heed the lessons of their excesses in seasons past, the profligate waste of talent that got them into the relegation mire in the first place … will they set aside their acquisitive temptations and build, constructively and methodically? Build with a coach who has shown he knows how to instil the basics into a faltering side and turn them into a team that can compete with the best?

As someone with no particular love or favour previously for either the Warriors or Noble, I can only say how much the work he has done with the Warriors has impressed me. Each visit has revealed massive progress in the discipline and character of his team. Where once I doubted his ability … now there is proof positive. A great job well done.