What better way to fill the NRL void during the off-season than a cheeky look back at some of Inside Sport’s finest rugby league stories from over the years.
Our first archive raid saw us rummaging through a cracking and fading black folder. Its contents: “INSIDE SPORT: November 1991 to July 1992.” Avid fans of our magazine will know that yep, those were the very first days of Inside Sport, which is now one of Australia’s great sporting publications.
Deep inside issue #3 (we just finished putting together #324), we discovered a gem of a story written by Graham Bicknell and titled “The Emperor Strikes Back”. It’s a ripping six-page yarn about how Wally Lewis had just given himself the toughest job in rugby league: player-coach of the Gold Coast Seagulls, and how he was going to mentor the NSWRL’s Tweed club despite being heavily involved in the action out on the field.
In his 1992 feature story, Bicknell wrote …
If Wally thinks he can take the Seagulls to the finals, he's not admitting it. "I set the target of at least eight wins to start with. Once we hit that target, I'll assess the situation, then try to line up another goal. I think it's basically a three-year plan for us to hit the five. I'm not giving myself an escape clause; if I find I don't meet the goals I've set in the first year, then I'll regard that year as a failure."
And then, of course, there's the central question: how will Wally, who is, after all, still one of the boys, cope with being the only playing coach in the League? It's not something that generally works well in the modern era; if it did, there'd be more of them.