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CHANGING THE MINDSET OF THE MAGPIES A BUZZ FOR LATHAM

Photo: Kev Nagle
Photo: Kev Nagle

Chris Latham excelled with a high energy, play-the-moment style to his game that made him one of the most exhilarating of Queensland and Wallaby players.

There was skill, speed and self-belief blended into a mindset that only saw upsides and chances on the field.

In his new guise as Souths coach, “Latho” is encouraging players to adjust their own mindsets so they see all the opportunities and know when to take them.

He was smiling after the Magpies produced a come-from-behind 32-22 win over Sunnybank at Chipsy Wood Oval in the StoreLocal Hospital Cup last weekend.

Of course, he’d particularly assess fullbacks. Magpie No.15 Bas Hanna scored twice against Sunnybank and his try before half-time was exactly what Latham has talked about.

Hanna fed hooker Theo Fourie, stayed alive in the play, looped around to receive the return pass and scooted clear for a key go-ahead try.

“Looking for a second touch, extra efforts, not waiting for the perfect opportunity but creating the perfect opportunity...that’s what you want to see,” Latham nodded approvingly.

“One of the rewarding things as a coach is enjoying the growth of a team, seeing the start of a mindset change and the shackles coming off.

“Mindset means a lot of things...being in the moment, understanding the game so you know the where and when to try something on the field, adjusting the game plan to suit under pressure and so on.

“Overall, not allowing ourselves to be destroyed from within by unconstructive talk is big too. You want to be finding solutions to situations.”

There will be those uncomfortable moments to deal with in Saturday’s Round 8 clash against the score-power of GPS at Yoku Road where the Magpies will have to step up.

Livewire halfback Jakob Morrison is another unlocking more for the Magpies. He has great footwork and loves to dart.

“Jakob is a really good player and I think he’s starting to understand that you can search for improvements in every part of a training night,” Latham said.

Latham gave wonderful service to Wests as a club player outside of the 117 games he played for Queensland. His try-scoring exploits and yearning to attack thrilled a generation of Reds fans, and fans of Wests.

“For me, it was easy to divorce myself from being a professional player. Club footy for me was going down to Sylvan Road and having fun,” Latham recalled.

“I loved it and thought I had a responsibility to give back.” Remember the 1998 club grand final. Latham and bride Michelle were married at Mt Coot-tha in the morning and he was playing a grand final against Souths at Ballymore in the afternoon. Re-scheduling of the game for TV had given him no other choice.

You can imagine Latham’s delight when Wallabies lock-flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto rang the club and declared his availability to return to club Rugby at the back end of the Super Rugby Pacific season.

“Lukhan has really contributed. He’s been at every training session and taken an instant leadership role on the field,” Latham said.

“He's a big calming presence and, on the field, all his talk is about the next job.”

Don’t be confused by a starting flanker wearing a No.19 jersey. It’s the only one the Magpies could find that fitted him.

Latham has been backs coach for the NTT Docomo club in Japan, assistant coach for Samoa and, before COVID cut things short in 2021, head coach of the Utah Warriors in the US.

“Rugby has given me so much. It teaches you lessons in life. You meet people and go places you otherwise never would. Passing on that love of the game is a big part of coaching for me,” Latham said. “Hopefully, you also get to work with the next whoever who is part of the future of the game.”

Latham would tip off any development program that’s listening to the potential of young No.8 Sam Mata’afa.

“While some aspects of Sam’s game are very raw, he has enormous scope to excel in a professional program,” Latham said.

“He’s tough, he’s got instinctive footwork prior to contact, he’s very coachable and he’d put on power just looking at a weights program.”

The Magpies will keep on improving which will make them a wildcard this season.

At Bond University, Brothers stalwart Patrick James, 27, will celebrate his 100th first grade game against the Bull Sharks.

He owes his nickname of “Sticksy” to former Nudgee College coach Peter Gledhill who tagged James’ pencil-slim father Michael as “Pretzel” when he played.

“I’ve always enjoyed Brothers for the friends from everywhere that you make along the way and the family feel to the club,” James said.

“We had a very good late win over Easts (32-28) last round. Being resilient is what we are about as a team and being fit and mobile enough to go for 80 minutes.”

James was instrumental with a hand in two of the late short-side tries that stung Easts.

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