BALIN Cupples plans on keeping the Newcastle Knights “uncomfortable” throughout the pre-season as he strives to instil the hard edge they will need to reach the 2019 play-offs.
Cupples, who has taken over as Newcastle’s Head of Physical Performance after stints at the Warriors and Wests Tigers, said his job is to set high benchmarks and ensure they are maintained – whatever it takes.
“Across a 15-week pre-season, you’ve always got to keep players accountable,” he told the Newcastle Herald.
“You’ve just got to set standards and the big thing for myself and the staff is to keep them uncomfortable.
“You have to be strict to make sure that players stay strong, because the pre-season, across the whole game, moves forward each year.
“The Knights obviously weren’t involved in finals football this year, so we have to try to put things in place that allow us to move forward quicker.”
Any players who don’t measure up can expect to suffer the consequences. “That’s my role, to make sure that happens,” he said.
If they come to regard him as a hard taskmaster in the process, he accepts that goes with the territory.
“I don’t know how much positive feedback there’ll be in these first seven weeks,” he said.
“That’s not being critical of the players, but I’m aware of where we want to get to, and I’m going to keep pushing them in that direction.
“In saying that, I’m not an authoritarian type of personality and I’m aware of making sure that I’m building relationships with players, but I’ve got to be hard as well.”
He said senior players like Mitchell Pearce, Jamie Buhrer and Shaun Kenny-Dowall had already impressed with their professionalism and leadership, while the athleticism of new recruits Jesse Ramien, Edick Lee and Hymel Hunt was instantly apparent on their first day at training.
“Myself and my staff, we’re a highly collaborative unit,” he said. “We’re here to challenge the players, but we’re here to help them at the end of the day.”
While all clubs spend the summer months honing their strength, speed and endurance, Cupples said the most successful teams were those who used their “energy” most efficiently.
“I think you have to have that extra edge,” he said.
“Everyone is doing very similar processes, training wise, it’s just the smaller components and the culture that you’re trying to create.
“The culture is a big one.
“For me it’s just about stripping it back. The focus is about fundamentals … the big thing is consistency and professional routines.”
A former utility back who played four NRL games for the Tigers in 2002-03, Cupples has spent much of his post-playing career gaining elite-level qualifications in sports science and coaching. He will complete a PhD midway through next year.
“For a variety of reasons, I didn’t get the playing career I desired,” he said.
“But I’ve always loved the game, and I’m in the best job now I can be.”