Is Robbo all he’s cracked up to be? The musings of a diehard Chooks fan


I went to pick my young fellow up from after-school sport the other week. One of the other dads was there wearing a Canberra Raiders shirt, so I wandered over and asked how he thought the Green Machine would go this year.

Our chat was fairly amicable until I mentioned that I was a Roosters fan. Of course, the infamous 2019 grand final came up. I’m used to jibes about the trainer being on the field in the third minute of the game, and because I’m diplomatic didn’t point out that it’s all academic now.

What surprised me though, was the firmly held, and even more firmly expressed opinion that the trainer being on the field was part of a cunning plan by Trent Robinson. This fellow indicated that Robbo as a coach really makes his blood boil. As he’s the coach of the club that I support, and a successful coach at that, I had assumed that other team supporters would hold him in high regard, or at least grudging respect. Not so.

Trent Robinson. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

According to this Raiders fan, Robinson is – and I am paraphrasing here to keep this family-friendly – a ‘Sneaky Pete’ who will do anything to win a game of football. Now because I am, I repeat, diplomatic, I chose not to launch into an impassioned defence of the Roosters coach, or into a revenge sledge of all things Ricky Stuart. Instead, I did something unusual in this day and age. I listened.

As I did, I heard what it was like to see Robinson as a coach, through the eyes of an opposition fan.
The criticisms included a willingness to concede penalties, cynically so, pressuring the referees through post-match press conferences, and failing to rein in the hotheads and loose cannons in the forward pack.

Surprisingly, recruitment and the salary sombrero didn’t rate a mention. It was all about Robinson as a coach. And on the whole, he was right on the money. Robinson has done all of those things. As a supporter, I can see all of that.

It is no surprise that the Roosters’ premiership run ended with the six-again era. Without the ability to reset the defence on the back of a conveniently conceded penalty, the famed Bondi wall has been somewhat porous. Robinson isn’t shy of sharing his thoughts on officiating in the post-match interviews. He’s not the worst. I wouldn’t call him a whinger, but he’s not perfect either.

Trent Robinson HITS back at JT for this question… ???? #NRLGF | @Channel9#9WWOS #NRL

— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) October 6, 2019

Victor Radley and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves both seem to get tacit approval from their coach. “We love the way he plays the game” is an attitude expressed more than once. I’m not sure I place blame for the trainer getting in the way in the grand final squarely on Robinson’s shoulders, but I have no doubt he was out there on Robinson’s say-so.

It was a different experience, looking at things from that alternate viewpoint. I wouldn’t say it revolutionised my thinking. I still see Robinson as the best coach the Roosters have had in the NRL era, because of his success and also because of his calm and no-nonsense demeanour. At least in my eyes. He doesn’t strike me as being a ‘Sneaky Pete’ who would do anything, but perhaps there is a willingness to thoroughly test the boundaries of what’s legal and what’s not.

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So while I could see his point, I’m not sure we will end up agreeing. It was a good thought exercise though. And just as an aside, you may have noted that some of the things that got under my Raiders-supporter mate’s skin might be things others accuse Ricky Stuart of: post-match presser rants and failing to rein in hotheads like Hudson Young or Corey Horsburgh. I could have pointed this out to him. I didn’t. Because I’m diplomatic.

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