New combination takes charge for Magpies 

MICHAEL Penman and Ross Duncan are spreading their rugby wings.

They’ve stepped up to coach Tamworth next season.

For both it will be their first time in a coaching position, although Duncan has done a lot of  “helping out” with various sides that he’s been involved in.

He isn’t just stopping at the Magpies either.

He’s also taken on the Central North job in partnership with Josh Clift.

“It’s a bit of jumping in the deep end,” he said.

But he’s probably not in any danger of drowning with the experience he’s accumulated over the years in Sydney and captaining Country and other sides.

“Both of us will take the role of co-coaches. One as the forwards’ and one as backs’,” he said.

It’ll be the same with the Kookaburras, he said.

“The thing with Mike and myself, it’s a huge commitment. Two of us makes sense.

“We can work off each other and help out.”

They’ve also got former coaches Joe Goldsworthy and Michael Bird around as resources.

Duncan came to the Magpies last year and sees the biggest challenge for him being the organisational aspect of coaching – programming and managing the players.

Penman is looking forward to the challenge, and will be sticking to the sidelines.

“I’m going to take a year off,” he said.

He feels he needs it after a bad run of injuries the last couple of seasons.

“(Last season) I kept getting injured every time I went out there,” he said.

As a result he managed only two games.

The season before he played just 82 minutes. That was partly what drove him to taking on the coaching job.

“When Ross showed a little bit of interest I thought it was a good opportunity,” he said.

The Magpies didn’t have the best season this year, but Duncan and Penman both feel they’ve got something to work with.

“There’s definitely potential,” Penman said.

“I think we’ve got a good group of core players that enjoy their rugby and enjoy each others’ company.”

They showed that last year, and also that they were willing to make the effort.

“Another thing that came out of it (last season) is that a lot of games we were in there for 50-60 minutes,” Duncan said.

“While we were fit and playing our best football we could compete with anyone.”

Fitness is consequently a big focus. It affects so much in the game, even the simple things.

“Simple mistakes come when you’re not fit enough,” Duncan said.

That was an issue last season.

“A lot of our games we’d be attacking and drop the ball and the other team would score,” he said.

They’ve already embarked on some pre-season training and are training Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And while it’s early days to know what is around, they will be without two of their best from last season.

Nick Wall – their Mr Fix-It in the forwards – is off to uni in Victoria while Ben McInnes is off to Newcastle.

He was their best and fairest last year and runner-up in the zone best and fairest.

Michael Penman (left) and Ross Duncan (right) will coach Tamworth next season. Photo: Grant Robertson. 151112GRA01

Michael Penman (left) and Ross Duncan (right) will coach Tamworth next season. Photo: Grant Robertson. 151112GRA01