Not many journalists get too much time with the legend that is Ellery Hanley MBE, a player who famously refused to talk to the media for much of his illustrious playing career. But on being appointed the new coach of Doncaster in early 2008, I managed to wangle just under an hour of his time to talk about his career and his surprising appointment of the Dons. He stayed at the Keepmoat for just one season but led them to promotion and to the Northern Rail Cup Final.
PLENTY of great things have happened to Ellery Hanley.
An MBE and a Golden Boot for a start.
In 2002 he was named in a list of 100 Great Black Britons. In 2005, he was inducted into the British Rugby League Hall of Fame. Last year he was named Great Britain’s greatest ever international player.
His remarkable career saw him score 428 tries in 498 games. He won 36 Great Britain caps and he won a bucketload of medals during a glorious stint at Wigan.
And he is only one of a handful of British players to have cracked Australia. His extraordinary performances for Balmain Tigers in 1988 took them to their first Grand Final in 29 years.
So when I ask Hanley to tell me his greatest moment, I’m pretty sure it will be contained in the above. But this is Ellery Hanley. He’s unpredictable and I’m wrong.
“The greatest thing that has ever happened to me came very recently,” he told me. “People ask me what was the greatest thing that happened to me. Was it a particular match or being honoured by the Queen or winning the Golden Boot or being inducted into the Hall of Fame? The greatest thing is the respect that you have from other players.
“Recently a journalist called me to tell me that Kris Radlinski wanted to send me a book. Telling you this story is giving me goose pimples by the way even though I’m not an emotional person. Kris doesn’t know me very well but he wanted my address and I just assumed he was going to send me a copy of his autobiography like many other people have done.
“But this book was in his own handwriting and was one of only three that he produced. He wanted to give me one of those three books.
“He told me that one was for his father, one was for himself and the other was for me. I nearly died! I was speechless and struggled to explain to him how much his gesture meant to me.
“He told me that I’d been inspirational in his life and that, to me, was bigger than any award. It’s the biggest honour I’ve ever received.”
December was an eventful month for Hanley. As well as Radlinski’s unexpected gift, he was handed the coaching reins at relegated Doncaster which marked a surprising return to the game, nearly eight years after his last head-coaching position.
I meet Hanley in his Doncaster office and am immediately drawn to two signs on the wall – “Give your very best and no one can ask any questions,” and “Stay in control whether you’re winning or losing.”
“They are the key factors in being a champion and in moving on from being ordinary,” Hanley tells me.
“I’m settling in at Doncaster with no problems at all. The players are fantastic, very professional and they’ve listened well. There are no dramas with anything whatsoever and I’m happy with the team.
“One of the things that I said to the players when I first got here was that they would all start off on a level playing field. What happened last season doesn’t matter to me. I’m not interested in second-hand or third-hand gossip from then. Circumstances have changed and a huge amount of personnel have come in.
“(Chairman) Craig (Harrison) and (chief executive) Shane (Miller) have come in and the support from them is fantastic.
“My expectations are very simple. Generally I don’t have a long-term goal. I have a short-term goal and that is winning the next football game. Performances are very important but it isn’t the be all and end all of everything. No matter what sport you play, you find that if you adhere to the basics from pre-season then you’ll go a long way.”
“In the backs of their minds, the people here already knew how I operated. I go step by step and that’s how I’ll always do it. Some coaches think two or three weeks down the line but I don’t actually think that far down the line.
“Obviously, there might be something at the back of my mind but my thoughts are about who we play at the weekend and to make sure the players are knowledgeable about the opposition. There’s no pressure on me. They knew what they wanted but they also knew my requirements in that things should be done from a professional point of view.
“Of course there will be downsides but it’s all about how you cope with them.”
Hanley’s appointment was met with not just surprise in the world of Rugby League, but also a degree of cynicism. ‘How long will he last?’ was a question on the lips of more than one journalist as Hanley was introduced to the media in mid-December.
“They obviously don’t know me and that’s the problem with journalists, people like yourself. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. Unless you know someone and you know them well enough then you’ve got no idea.
“Can I tell you about journalists? I’m not interested in journalists. The reason I’m not interested in journalists is that 99% of them haven’t played Rugby League and have no idea of what it’s like to step over the whitewash and actually play. It doesn’t matter what level you play at – amateur or professional – they have no idea. All they do is write a report and give their opinion. Any person from the public can do that so, for me, what they say holds no bearing on me whatsoever.
“I know how I operate and how my system works and how I like the players to go about their business. They’ll continue to write things when I’ve left planet Earth because they have a job to do.”
I ask Hanley if this is why he rarely spoke to journalists as a player: “I wouldn’t say I didn’t talk to journalists. How I conducted myself in the past has nothing to do with you or anybody.”
Hanley’s amateur club was the now defunct Corpus Christi in Leeds before he signed for Bradford Northern on June 2 1978. He made a tryscoring debut later that year against Rochdale as he embarked on a six-year career at Odsal, scoring 89 tries in 126 appearances.
“Corpus Christi is where I plied my trade when I was an amateur, acquiring my skills under a number of coaches. I gained a lot experience getting time on the football paddock.
“The transition was never a problem for me because, in my mind, I was always a professional anyway, in terms of how I conducted myself on the football paddock and how I looked after myself off it.
“If you’re a player who attracts a lot of attention on the football field, you’ve got to know how to handle yourself. The opposition hardened me both physically and mentally as did some of the crowds. There was abuse and other things to endure as a player and it toughened my resolve.
“Wherever I played in the world had no bearing on how I played. I knew what I had to do. I was focused and tunnel-visioned and sometimes that can be mixed up with arrogance. I was a total professional and I am to this day as a coach or as a squash or tennis player. I’m still focused and I know what I have to do.
“I can trace that attitude back to being much younger; to when I first understood sport and when I was first competing as a ten-year-old in cross country running. I knew I had to win and I knew what I had to do to understand the opposition. I always looked at their weaknesses and where I could be stronger and go beyond them.
“One of the hardest things in life is to be consistent as an individual and as a team, you’ll gain massive respect. That’s all I ever did. I turned up early to training and I prepared properly. I was focused on gameday.”
Hanley admits he received abuse, but was it racial?
“Racism was always there and it hardened my resolve. Let me explain this to you. Racism only applies in very small pockets. The majority of people in the game are the nicest you could meet anywhere. It’s only a small minority who aren’t. Racism has been cleaned up a lot since I first came into the game as a 17- or 18-year old kid.”
His greatest single moment as a Northern player came at a ground he was to grace later in his career – Headingley. In the Challenge Cup semi-final of 1983 against eventual Cup winners Featherstone Rovers, Hanley scorched up the sideline beating player after player to score one of the greatest tries of the modern era.
“I don’t remember it in too much detail because so many great things have happened to me since,” said Hanley. “People remind me of it but I haven’t seen it for about 15 or 20 years! I may have the video somewhere though.
“But we lost that day and as a sportsman, you’ve got to be able to deal with losses and understand how you lost. That’s something I do quite easily and while nobody wants to be beaten you’ve got to know how to handle it and turn the negative into a positive. I couldn’t tell you know what my thoughts were after that particular game because it’s just such a distant memory.”
A year later, having made his debut for Great Britain against France from the substitute’s bench, Hanley was boarding a ‘plane to the Southern Hemisphere to play for Great Britain against Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Last month’s subject of the Big Interview Brian Noble captained a young side who restored some pride to the British jersey after the hammerings handed out to them by the Australian Invincibles of 1982. Hanley played no small part in that as the Ashes Tests were much closer than two years earlier.
“What I remember is that the Australians were way, way better than us. Individually and collectively, they were way too good for us. We were still lagging way behind the Australians and it wasn’t until years later that we got closer to them. But they’re still the best Rugby League nation now.”
Hanley explains that the occasional Test win does not necessarily mean that we are closing the gap.
“Anyone who does something so well for such a long period – decades and decades in this case – will still fall short from time to time. But overall, we have to recognise that they’re the best on the planet.
“The reason that we’re so far behind Australia is that their league is structured so they have a huge amount of players to choose from. They also play in a good climate on hard grounds so they can keep the ball alive and become more skilful.
“They had an enormous pool of players to choose from and still do. If somebody goes to Australia, they’ll have a hell of a job getting into first grade because the competition is so strong. If you’re not playing well, you’ll go into the reserve grade side but in England if you’re not playing well you’ll probably stay in the 17 because the competition’s not so strong. So that competition brings the best out of the Australians because they know they have to perform at their best week in week out just to keep their first grade spots.
“But don’t get me wrong. We closed the gap to a degree a few years later but we were still a long way from them.
“Great Britain could sustain pressure for only a small period of time but Australia could do it for 80 minutes because of their competition. In our competition, the top sides beat the lower sides by 50 or 60 points and that was no good for the Great Britain side.”
1985 was another memorable Hanley year. A quite astonishing 55 tries in only 37 games led to Wigan signing him for £150,000 and two players – Phil Ford and Steve Donlan. It was the start of a trophy-laden spell at Central Park that would see him net four Challenge Cups, three championships, a World Club Challenge in 1987 over Manly, four John Player Trophy wins and four Lancashire Cups. Unsurprisingly, Maurice Lindsay regards Hanley as Wigan’s greatest signing.
Hanley was back in Australia in 1988, when he was regarded by many as the best player in the world. He captained Great Britain in the Ashes series, scoring a superb individual try in the first Test. The series was lost but the British restored some pride with their famous triumph in Sydney in the third Test, a game best remembered for Mike Gregory’s long-range try.
He then signed for mid-table Balmain Tigers in the Winfield Cup and hit the form of his career to almost single-handedly carry the Tigers to the Grand Final. Balmain’s team contained many a legend – Benny Elias, Steve Roach, Wayne Pearce, Paul Sironen, Gary Jack and Gary Freeman – but it was Hanley who sparked the club’s best form in over quarter of a century.
“You know you’re doing well when the Australians say that they respect you. I had some great times in Australia and when I go back they welcome me with open arms off the ‘plane at the airport. That’s something that I always treasure because it’s such an honour.”
But the final turned into a nightmare for the man nicknamed the Black Pearl in Sydney. Canterbury centre Andrew Farrar, renowned as one of the code’s finest ever defensive centres went in low on Hanley and Terry Lamb came in higher with a highly-controversial tackle. Hanley was concussed and played no further part in the game. Canterbury went on to win 24-12. Years later when Lamb was appointed coach of Wests Tigers (a merger of Balmain and Western Suburbs), some Tigers fans rallied against the decision, still upset over the events at the Sydney Football Stadium in 1988. It remains one of the most famous incidents in Australian Grand Final history.
“I’ve forgotten about it because it’s a distant memory,” said Hanley. “Injuries are an occupational hazard in this sport. You’re going to get injured and you have to cope with that. It just so happened that on that particular day I got injured. I’m not really sure what happened but I was unconscious for a little while and came to my senses later on but, like I say, it’s an occupational hazard.”
A year later Hanley was awarded the Golden Boot by Open Rugby magazine for his performances in 1988. Now a Wigan player, he also won the Lance Todd trophy at Wembley as the outstanding individual in the 27-0 Challenge Cup final win over St Helens. As I put it to Hanley, an outstanding year on an individual basis.
“I would retract from that because I have to incorporate everybody that I played with and even everyone I played against because they propelled me to that position. It’s important to recognise those people. It’s like someone who scores 30 or 40 tries in a season; they’re assisted by other people.
“I always remember players like Ged Byrne, Ian Potter and Brian Case. They were the real workhorses and their work was often unrecognised. They weren’t flamboyant or stars but these kind of guys epitomised the workmanship required to win games.
“Wigan had a mentality. One of the great catalysts in the game was Maurice Lindsay. He brought magnificent players together but what he did that was so good was that he always asked the senior players whether a particular player would fit into the system well. Maurice always came to people like myself, Shaun Edwards and Dean Bell to ask our opinions.
“Once you create a winning habit, it’s easier to keep on winning. When you’re losing it’s tough to break the habit. Added to all that, Maurice didn’t just buy the best players or the mentally toughest players, he made sure we were dangerous in every position. There was a fear factor with every single team who came to Central Park. They knew that more than likely they would get beaten. Even if a couple of players who were off their game on a particular day, there were other players who would step up.”
Hanley eventually left Wigan in 1991, claiming it wasn’t a difficult decision, to join Leeds under Doug Laughton in a playing/coaching role, making his debut in a 20-14 home win over Hull FC.
On one of the rare occasions that he fronted the Rugby League media in his playing days, Hanley said: “I have thought of moving into coaching for a couple of years, and although I was happy at Wigan, the offer to move to Leeds was too tempting. I have lived in the city all my life and as a youngster dreamed of playing here.”
At the press conference Laughton claimed that Garry Schofield would remain as captain but within a week had handed the role to Hanley. Schofield was furious with Laughton.
“It didn’t create a problem with me and Garry,” said Hanley. “We spoke about it and we were OK. It’s didn’t affect me or the team and we just did what we had to do. Garry was a hugely noticed player who made a huge contribution to Rugby League and we had a good, professional relationship.”
Hanley remained at Leeds for four years but the club failed in their quest to land a major trophy finishing fifth, fifth, seventh and second in the league while reaching Wembley in 1994 and 1995 but losing to Wigan each time.
“One of the things that happened at Wigan was that we had the strong mentality. Even when I left, that mentality was still there. At Leeds, I wanted us to adopt that mentality but it was something that wasn’t going to happen quickly. Remember, I was at Wigan a lot longer than I was at Leeds.
“But a lot of things got implemented there and we got close.
During his last season at Leeds, Hanley was appointed Great Britain coach for the visit of the touring Kangaroos. Hanley resisted the calls for him to play and coached the side to a first Test win, despite the sending-off of captain Shaun Edwards for a first half high tackle on Bradley Clyde. The Aussies came back to win the series with wins at Old Trafford and Elland Road.
“The step-up to head coach was easy. I’d coached all my life and knew how to get the best out of players and understood about the winning mentality.
“I was always coaching, even under John Monie at Wigan. Under John, there were three players who directed the football team and they were Shaun Edwards, Andy Gregory and myself.
“When I look back to that Ashes series, Australia were the better side and, in terms of their competition, they were better prepared. Even at 1-0 down in a series, they had the knowledge, the discipline and the mental toughness to overcome the handicap. Their playing environment gives then that.”
Hanley scored 41 tries from loose forward in 1994/95 so was he tempted to lace the boots and take part in one more assault on the Australians?
“Never. It didn’t cross my mind at all. I thought that there were players who would fill the roles much better than I did and would give more to the team.
“My workload was enormous. I was working with the players, trying to get them to peak and to play consistently. I was managing the team and to then play would have been wrong. It wouldn’t have worked.”
Hanley’s career in England ended in 1995 as, at the height of the Super League war in Australia, he signed a lucrative contract to finish his career with Balmain, the club that he had lit up so memorably seven years earlier.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision because I’d enjoyed my earlier spells in Australia so much,” said Hanley. “The whole experience was fantastic, playing with guys like Benny Elias, Garry Jack, Paul Sironen and a host of other players.
“I knew I was coming to the end of my career. I played a game up in Newcastle and I just knew that it was time to retire. I knew that my body didn’t want to go through it anymore.
“I’d given everything that I could as a player. I knew that if I continued that I’d let myself down. I’d had a long career and I had to accept that it was time to leave gracefully – like a cricketer who’s been bowled out. He has to take the applause and walk away.
“It was like a weight off my shoulders because I’d had to perform for nearly 20 years at that level. I’d had to be extremely disciplined throughout that time and you’re forever scrutinised. After I finished I could do what I wanted to do.”
Hanley returned to England to coach St Helens, the club who had bagged the first three available major trophies in the Super League era, winning two Challenge Cups and a Super League in 1996 and 1997. But they faded in 1998 and replaced Shaun McRae with Hanley.
With Hanley at the helm, it was a tempestuous year. They won their first nine Super League games before losing three games in June. In July, Hanley was sensationally suspended after accusing the Saints board of failing to strengthen the squad, claiming that he was having to blood young players who were not ready for the rigours of Super League.
With fans and players pressing for his return, Hanley was reinstated and coached his team to a season-turning 28-12 win at Leeds. They went on to finish second and beat Bradford 8-6 in the tensest of Grand Finals, just a fortnight after being thrashed 40-4 in the play-offs at Odsal. The two-week turnaround, masterminded by Hanley, was extraordinary.
“I look back on my time at St Helens with an enormous amount of pride,” said Hanley. “I had a great time there and the players were magnificent. They always gave everything, even when we lost.
“Midway through 1999, there was a dispute between me and the club but the players rallied round me and told the club that they wanted me back. That told me everything about them.
“When I was reinstated, one of the things that I said to the players was that they knew how to win football games. And they went on to prove that.”
However, the reunion was only temporary. After one Super League game in 2000, Hanley was sacked. Saints detailed three reasons for their decision in their letter to Hanley in March that year.
The letter claimed that Hanley was in ‘fundamental breach’ of his contract citing the following three reasons.
“a) At a sponsors dinner in the early part of this year, you made several comments which offended the reputation of the club. b) Prior to the Cup defeat to Leeds you refused to give an interview to the BBC. c) You failed to attend the launch of Super League V despite request from the Rugby League.”
Hanley denied the accuracy of the letter but Saints quickly employed Ian Millward to replace him. For nearly eight years, Hanley has been out of the game apart from a brief spell in a consultancy role at Castleford.
Quite simply, the game is enriched by his return at Doncaster.
box-out 1 – Radlinski’s book
“When I finished playing there were a lot of things going on in my head so I began to write them down.
But I didn’t want to have it published. I was just doing it for me. I was also getting my dad one for Christmas and it occured to me that I should get Ellery one too.
He’s a completely unique figure to me and I’m proud to have watched him play at his peak.
He rang me when he got the book and I was in shock that it had meant so much to him
He played a big part in why a lot of us originally took up the game. He was my hero.
I’ve never met him and I’d never had any conversation with him but I sent it to him because I wanted to know the influence that he’d had on my career and my life.
When I was growing up, Rugby League was the most fashionable thing in town. Everybody wanted to be Ellery Hanley or Joe Lydon when they were growing up.
He was an athlete that I don’t think we’ll see the likes of again. He always showed up in the big games, coming up with the big plays. He had amazing mental strength and he intimidated his opponents.
I’m actually on my honeymoon at the moment in Jamaica and we were talking the other night about who we’d like to meet.
There’s no one I’d rather sit down with and get inside the mind of that Ellery. In fact, maybe I shouldn’t meet him. I’ll just leave him on that pedestal up there with the gods.”
box-out 2 – Ellery’s greatest moments
1. 1983 Challenge Cup semi-final. Hanley scores one of the tries of the decade playing for Bradford Northern against Featherstone Rovers at Headingley. He fends off a series of tackles to storm 80 metres up the touchline. But, despite the try, Bradford fail to reach Wembley.
2. 1984 Lions Tour to Australia. Great Britain select a young squad to compete in the 1984 Ashes series. Hanley’s performances see him named in the World XIII and he also receives the Open Rugby medal for his performances in the 1983-84 season.
3. In the following season, Hanley tops the tryscoring charts with an astonishing 55 tries in just 37. Two seasons later, he registers 63 touchdowns.
4. On the Lions Tour of the same year, Great Britain hold a surprise 6-0 lead at half-time in the first Test. The try is a typical Hanley effort, crabbing across the field before straightening up and scoring in the corner.
5. Still in 1988, Hanley signs for Balmain Tigers and makes contribution so supreme that Tigers’ hooker Benny Elias still regards him as the best player he played with (see separate feature).
6. Open Rugby presents Hanley with the prestigious Golden Boot award, recognising him to be the best player in the world.
7. Back at Wembley in 1989, Hanley wins the Lance Todd trophy for his outstanding performance in the crushing 27-0 win over St Helens.
8. In 1990, the year he receives the MBE, Hanley captains Great Britain to a memorable 19-12 Wembley win over Australia. The second Test is lost on the hooter as Great Britain push the Kangaroos as close as they ever have since the early 1970s.
9. Playing for Leeds, Hanley scores 41 tries from loose forward at the age of 34. During the same season, he coaches Great Britain to a famous 12-man Wembley win over Australia.
10. Coaching St Helens, Hanley delivers the Super League title at the first attempt by beating Bradford Bulls 8-6 – a remarkable turnaround given that two weeks earlier at Odsal, they had lost 40-4 to the same opposition.
On his appointment at Doncaster:
Ellery, why Doncaster?
It came about through a mutual contact and to be honest I was doing my usual thing in day to day life before Doncaster contacted me. I hadn’t been to the stadium and didn’t even know the location. I went along and met Craig, Shane and Carl. I looked at the club and the stadium and the things that sold it to me – money didn’t come into it – was the challenge in terms of taking a team from the doldrums and out of this particular league. The enthusiasm of Craig, Shane and Carl was enormous, almost as if you had three people who wanted to play. Coaches and players normally come for money – I don’t do that. My sole goal is winning, it’s as simple as that. That’s the challenge for me. The immediate and most important thing for me is to take it step by step.
Doncaster is an ambitious club as your appointment confirms and the club wants to be in Super League by 2012. Is that realistic and will you still be here by then?
If I’m really frank, my main concern is concentrating on the league this season. I can’t move from that, that’s the way my mind is made up. That’s my tunnel vision and I’ll go step by step towards that. Everyone wants to be in Super League but you’ve got to earn the right by going through the stages.
You’ve only been used to dealing with elite players in your career. Here you’ll be dealing with lower division players. Will that be frustrating for you?
No. A coach has to adapt accordingly. They are elite in their own right and we have to be respectful of that. The players work hard and the players will be of similar standard with the competition they play in. Not everyone can play in Super League although that’s obviously the long-term goal but we can work together and get the best out of the players week in week out. I’ve also played as an amateur with Corpus Christi in front of ten people so I’m respectful of the game at all levels. All players work hard and put their bodies on the line. Unless you’ve done that yourself, it would be negative to talk about playing standards.
You’re at the beginning of something exciting.
Yes absolutely and that’s a key point. I’m looking forward to the job. Everyone in Doncaster is excited and I am too.
You haven’t coached for a while. Is that a problem?
No. One thing with me is that I’m a full-time professional person. I’ve coached all my life even as a player and have coached in squash and tennis so it’s not a drama. My motivation is there. I was happy and content with having the freedom of doing whatever I wished and this came about quite quickly. This is a new, exciting venture and we need to bring the fans to this beautiful stadium and we’ll only do that by winning and being consistent in week in week out.
Have you watched many National League games recently?
No. I haven’t followed it but I don’t think it’s a problem. I’ll be looking at tapes and other teams to see their strengths and weaknesses as I’ve always done.
Have you missed the game and the coaching buzz?
Not really, to be honest. My lifestyle has kept me occupied. Even though I see all the Super League games on TV and know all the players, my life has been fulfilled with many other things. I’ve been enjoying my life and taking time out. I’m fortunate that I can do that.
You’ve always been a straight talker. Will anything change now?
No, absolutely not. If the players give their very best then no one can ask any questions.
You’ve played on the biggest of stages in front of huge crowds. How will you adapt to life in National League Two?
Winning will be exactly the same. I understand winning and staying in control of games. That’s what the key elements are. It won’t be an easy task, I’m under no illusions and there will be difficulties as we go along but we’ll have to adjust accordingly. We’ll have to pick players up at those times and get through the difficult patches. It’s knowing how to deal with the difficult times that counts.
Are you in this for the long haul?
Absolutely. We know that success won’t be immediate and there will be some pitfalls along the way. The plan is that I’ll be here for three years although we’ll take it step by step and see how it goes.
Do you need this in your life?
I enjoy it and it’s a challenge. I would never do anything that I didn’t enjoy.
Tell us about the squash player you’ve worked with and how you’ve helped him.
I’ve helped out a fair bit with John White the former World Number One. He contacted me just before I got the Doncaster job asking me if I could help him with the British Open in Manchester so we’re still in touch. I help him with his mental preparation and with staying in control of a game. In squash, momentum switches very quickly because the points are very rapid. One of the things that John didn’t have was knowing how to stay in control for long periods, which you can relate to Rugby League. Some teams have purple patches but don’t stay in control for long periods. It’s about momentum. There will always be a dip period at any level and it’s about knowing what to do when you have a dip period.
Are you a good squash player yourself?
Well, the Rugby League boys have all come and tried to beat me but none of them have so far! Gary Connolly keeps ducking and diving from me. I’ve ‘phoned him but he thinks he’s injured at the moment although he’s a very good player I hear.
Donny aim for 2012
DONCASTER are aiming to win a Super League franchise by 2012.
“That’s 100% the case,” said Chairman Craig Harrison. “That’s why we’re all here.
“We’ve spoken to the RFL and there are about five boxes to tick. The stadium ticks one box and so does the scholarship.
“We need to be averaging crowds of 4,000 and we need to get the team in place but Ellery’s appointment is massive.
“Corporate wise, we’ve sold seven boxes already. Last season we didn’t sell any. We’ve also sold ten tables in the restaurant for the season.
“Even before Ellery came in, we’d signed some very good players like Chris McKenna, Andreas Baeur and Graeme Horne. To increase the quality of the players we need a strong character and Ellery is the strongest person I’ve ever met.
“I’ve recently sold my business Yorkshire Waste Management to Waste Value UK so I free to concentrate on the club. I’m also Danny McGuire’s manager and that’s how I managed to contact Chris McKenna.
“Danny’s great to manage”
Can Doncaster fans expect to see McGuire in their number six jersey one day?
“Well I’ve ticked two boxes by taking over the club and getting Ellery. Danny’s my next aim!”
JOHN WHITE is the former World Number One squash player. He was born in Australia, represents Scotland and was based just outside Philadelphia when he spoke to Rugby League World.
“I’d seen Ellery play a few times when I was living in Brisbane and he was playing for Balmain. I followed his career and then came across him at the end of 2003 in Sheffield. I won a tournament there and I was told there was a former Rugby League player called Ellery Hanley on the scene. After the final, he introduced himself and told me that he’d followed my career and love the way I played.
“We became very good friends, keeping in touch and I’d go to Leeds or Manchester to see him and he’d come to my matches. I used to pick his brains about what to do in certain situations. Even if I was playing in Qatar, he’d get through to my hotel and we’d talk.
“He studied a lot of the other players, giving me his feedback on the mental strength of my opponent and his other strengths and weaknesses. His knowledge is unbelievable and he was a huge help to me.
“A big part of Ellery’s talks is momentum. If I eased up by half a yard, then I’d go two yards backwards and he taught me that. He would say that I could unwittingly get out of my gameplan in two rallies and then it could take me a whole game to get it back. Don’t open the door for your opponent when you’re on top. I suppose that’s relevant in all sports.
“When he talks to me before a game, he’s calm. He never raises his voice and he’s never negative. He’d say the right thing to prepare me mentally which was especially important if I’d been playing for four days in a row.
“When he finished talking, all I wanted to do was get on the court and win and I’m sure he’ll have the same effect on the players at Doncaster.
“He’s so into challenges it’s a joke! I’m sure he’ll go well at Doncaster.”
Saints legends back Hanley
THREE of St Helens’s 1999 Grand Final winning team have backed Ellery Hanley to be a winner at Doncaster.
Hanley coached Saints for just one full season and, against the odds, they beat Bradford 8-6 in the Grand Final only two weeks after losing 40-4 to them in the play-offs.
Kevin Iro scored the winning try in that final and played alongside Hanley at Wigan and Leeds.
Speaking to Rugby League World from the Cook Islands Iro said, “I’m pretty good friends with both Ell and Carl Hall at Doncaster.”
“Carl was giving me a minute-by-minute briefing on what was happening with Ellery and it’s great news for them that they’ve got him.
“Doncaster is a massive catchment area and they just need a good team. They could be a really big club and if Ellery can build the team then they’ll go places.
“Everyone respects Ellery and his motivational abilities were superb. We responded to them because he was so good at his job and because of the respect we had for him.
“With Ellery at Doncaster, I’m tempted to sign for them!”
Tommy Martyn and Chris Joynt also played under Hanley at Saints.
“He’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” said Martyn. “And he’s certainly got stuff to offer. It was Rugby League’s loss to have him out of the game and it can only be good for the game to have him involved again.
“He’s got so much knowledge to pass on and he’s a winner. If he wanted you to run through a brick wall, you’d do it and the things he will bring to Doncaster will be fantastic. They’ll be so disciplined and he’ll want them to get on the right side of the referee. Not many of them will be late for training either!
“Doncaster are obviously aiming for Super League and this is a real step in the right direction for them.”
Meanwhile Joynt, Hanley’s captain at St Helens said, “He’s someone I have the greatest of respect for.”
“I played under him not just at St Helens when we won the Grand Final but also for Great Britain when we beat Australia with 12 men at Wembley under his guidance.
“At Saints we were very excited when we knew he was coming and it was probably a dream job for him too.”
Joynt, however, offered a word of caution.
“Doncaster will be very different to what he’s been used to in the past and there isn’t the quality of players there. It will be a big challenge for him.”