North Tamworth captain Scott Blanch paused when asked to comment on outgoing Bears coach Brad McManus.
“I hope I find the words to do him justice. That’s the biggest thing for me,” Blanch said.
McManus retired after Norths’ 30-22 grand final win over Narrabri at Jack Woolaston Oval on Sunday, having steered the Bears to back-to-back premierships to go with the 2014 premiership they won with him at the helm.
In 2014, Norths also won the Clayton Cup after recording the best record that season for a top-tier NSW country rugby league side.
Blanch said it was an “absolute pleasure” to work with McManus because “he always will go above and beyond what he should do to get it done”.
“Anyone who follows Spitter [McManus’ nickname] into the role has got bloody big shoes to fill,” he said.
“To hold a country rugby side together can sometimes be hard work but he’s always done it pretty easily.”
Blanch said that ability to “get blokes together” and a love for the game were core elements of McManus’ success.
The five-eighth, a former Manly signing, hopes to see McManus at Norths next year.
“Even if it’s just him coming down and supporting the club,” he said.
McManus knew at the start of the season he would step down to spend more time with his children, Angus, 6, and Sophia, 3, and his wife, Amanda.
He had planned to do so at the end of the 2016 season.
But Norths’ grand final win that year was marred by the poor behaviour of some West Lions players.
He wanted to “come back and finish on a better note”.
“I’ve done that,” he said.
“I’ve won them [premierships] as a player and won them as a coach, so I’m happy.”