Blues brains trust reaches out to Warren Ryan ahead of Origin opener

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Warren Ryan, one of rugby league’s most influential coaches, has been invited to impart his wisdom to the Blues’ brains trust during the team’s training run on Friday.

Ryan, a two-time premiership-winning mentor, heeded a call late on Thursday night to oversee the final training session of the week at Coogee Oval. NSW coach Brad Fittler asked Andrew Johns, who played under Ryan at Newcastle, to invite the former clipboard holder to observe the session as they prepare for the series opener in Adelaide.

It’s a chance for Fittler, Johns and Greg Alexander to pick the brain of a coach who revolutionised the game.

It’s not the first time the man dubbed “Wok” has been welcomed into the inner sanctum. Fittler invited Ryan to provide his insights before the deciding game in the 2019 series, which NSW won 26-20 to secure the shield.

Ryan coached his 415th and final match way back in 2000, but continues to monitor the game and its trends. Even at the age of 81, he is a man in demand; Wallabies coach Eddie Jones is keen for Ryan to address his coaching staff. The former Jets, Bulldogs, Tigers, Magpies and Knights coach is happy to help if a suitable time can be arranged for himself and Johns to meet their counterparts in the 15-man game.

“I’m happy to meet them,” Ryan told this masthead earlier this week. “I’ve met with Eddie previously, it was probably more than 10 years ago. I’d be keen for them to bring some [game] vision and address why they don’t go in and attend the breakdown the way they used to in the game.”

Warren Ryan while coach of Canterbury in 1986.Credit: Paul Matthews

Many of the principles that Ryan introduced to rugby league remain relevant today. He delivered Canterbury two premierships with his “up-and-in defence”, a tactic that led officials to extend the five-metre rule to 10 metres. He also helped introduce five premiership coaches – Phil Gould, Chris Anderson, Steve Folkes, Michael Hagan and Shane Flanagan – who either played or coached under him.

Johns has long been one of his most faithful disciples and the pair regularly discuss football.

Earlier this month, Paul Langmack arranged for a plethora of stars including Johns, Peter Tunks, Joe Thomas, David Gillespie, Ben Elias, Paul Sironen, Steve Roach and Darryl Brohman to catch up at Ryan’s local watering hole, Maroubra Seals. The group is expected to hold another mini-reunion in coming months.

Ryan won’t be the only special guest to watch the Blues go through their paces. Tim Tszyu, the WBO interim light-middleweight titleholder, is also expected to observe the session and mix with the players afterwards.

Tszyu’s younger brother, Nikita, kept his undefeated record intact with a round-one knockout victory over Ben Bommber at Margaret Court Arena on Wednesday night.

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