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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Can Gailer down the Dons?

A TALE of two halves – and most definitely two coaches. Listening to Darren Holt and Don Gailer it was hard to believe Barrow had just won a topsy-turvey Northern Rail Cup derby – and Haven had lost.

Holt, having just taken over the Craven Park coaching reigns, sounded utterly deflated while Gailer, fresh from Australia and far more experienced, was totally upbeat. The scoreboard read Whitehaven 10, Barrow 18.

“Simply not good enough, we got 14 points up and just switched off for the rest of the game,” lamented young Mr Holt on his winning performance.

Darren (just like The Don) rung the changes but was unimpressed by the efforts of some of his Barrow boys looking to stake a Championship One starting claim.

Another defeat might have left The Don just a little bit downcast – but not a bit.

“It was about passion and pride, I thought all the boys put pride back in the jersey and some passion in the club.”

Mr Gailer was talking about the second 40 minutes, of course for Haven’s first half performance was dire.

Playing towards the Kells-End proved no inspiration. The side played like strangers – well some of them haven’t been together all that long.

From first half shambles came Haven chameleons – a transformed side of completely different colour. All devil and desire but still they lost. Bottom line.

Another early Rail Cup KO is disappointing but Don Gailer has focused on trying to putting players in the right positions for the Championship One campaign, starting at Doncaster on Sunday.

At times it’s seemed like a case of sticking a pin in the proverbial donkey to come up with the winning formula. Only one win in four Rail Cup outings tells its own tale.

Some of us remember Doncaster in the bad old days and that grim TV documentary – Another Bloody Sunday – but their brand new shared stadium is a far cry from Tatters Field, Ellery Hanley coached The Dons to a Rail Cup final in 2008; now they’ve got a certain Paul Cooke, of Humberside fame, pulling some considerable strings on the field. His wages partly paid by fans and sponsors apparently.

Haven have a tendency to come unstuck against such skilled ex-Super League schemers. Classy Cooke could probably still be plying his trade at a higher level if he so wished.

Carl Rudd, showing good stand-off form of his own, will be in direct opposition to Cooke. The ex-Hornet appears to have taken heed of his coach’s advice ‘to take off the dinner jacket’.

Says Gailer: “Carl couldn’t have done more against Barrow. He was fantastic.”

Surely, though, more spark and creativity is needed. No point in having two flyers on the edges if they don’t see the ball in a bit of space.

Who will fill those jerseys at Doncaster remains to be seen. Shane Ackerley vies with Jonny Youds for the fullback spot – he’s a game lad is young Shane. I love Mr Gailer’s descrip-tion – “he’s like a heart with arms and legs”.

Haven desperately need to beat Doncaster, at least put up a good (80-minute) performance. We need to know last Sunday’s second half fight-back was no fluke.

One of The Don’s stated philosophies is that if a team improves to the required standard the scoreboard will look after itself.

Stuart Lancaster, England’s caretaker RU coach, who learned his rugby at St Bees School, apparently bases his coaching/leadership philosophy partly on legendary San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh and his book ‘The Score Takes Care Of Itself’.

Shared philosophy then – but there’s another one that advocates ‘building a score’ even when a team isn’t playing particularly well. That also gives a side the confidence and belief to go on and win. I can’t help thinking there’s something of the psychologist in Don Gailer.

Mental toughness – and the Aussies usually have it in spades – will be a factor in who makes up the four promotion places. It may well come right down to the wire and early points, whether winning or bonus, will prove crucial.

I’d love Cumbrian Stuart Lancaster to see off France in Paris but equally so for Haven’s Aussie Don to down The Dons – meaning the scoreboard will have looked after itself for both.

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