'MADGE' MAGUIRE & MANHATTAN
SOUTHS fans should know about Hayden James.
A hulking, Caribbean bookend who, when not guarding doors to some of New York City's hottest nightspots, will occasionally tuck a Steeden under one arm for his beloved Knights, the only rugby league team calling the Big Apple home.
Now James, a doorman who resembles a bigger, angrier version of The A-Team's Mr T and also goes by the nickname TLG (or Trinidadian Love God) lives in Harlem.
Which is important for fans of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Years ago, back when Michael Maguire wasn't overseeing The Pride Of The League but working as an anonymous assistant coach to the Canberra Raiders, he headed to the US to see how the NFL boys rolled.
High on ideas but low on cash, Maguire first hooked up with former Winfield Cup player David Niu, heavily involved with the American game, who then phoned Knights officials to see if anyone had space for an Aussie billet.
And guess who offered up his couch?
"And 'Madge', it was like he belonged up there in Harlem," one New York spy laughs. "Actually, he was living on TLG's couch when another group of NRL suits - David Gallop, Graham Annesley and Shane Richardson, from memory, arrived and were wined and dined in Manhattan.
Which is why 2012 can still be the Year of The Rabbit.
Even now, with the Bunnies on consecutive losses, hooker Issac Luke mysteriously dumped to reserves and their defensive line suddenly leaking like a Parramatta board meeting.
Sure, the critics are out in force. But then The Daily Telegraph watches the Bunnies train at Redfern Oval. Seeing them run, laugh and attempt the sort of trick shots for which YouTube was surely created.
Afterwards, when centre Dylan Farrell swings by, you mention that nothing here seems different to when they were on that six-game tear a few weeks back.
"Because nothing is," he says. "Honestly, people can say what they like because the vibe here, it's exactly the same. We know we'll be winning again."
And this, they say, is because of Michael Maguire.
The publicity-shy coach now overseeing a club which, only yesterday it seems, had players complaining about how the Hollywood hype was distracting them. Cruelling the club.
Perhaps you remember it as the
"Hollywood? No, Madge ain't like that," says Nathan Merritt. "He prefers everything low key."
Skipper Roy Asotasi goes further. "All the Hollywood hype, Madge has closed the door on that," he says.
"Now you simply go out there to do your job ... or he'll find someone who will."
The tattooed Rabbitoh also points out how, since coming on board this season, Maguire has taped every training session. "So anyone who wants to cruise through a session, they'll get a tap on the shoulder," he says.
It's why, despite the sudden outcry of peaking too early, Souths aren't panicking.
Michael Crocker, credits it to Maguire's ability to "teach you something new every day".
Others, however, point to the way he empowers team leaders like British international Sam Burgess.
And as for the superstar of the side, fullback Greg Inglis?
"We just need everyone buying into Madge's system," he says. "Do that and we can be there at the end."