“Played strong, done fine.”
- Jack Gibson
Peter Sterling with coach Jack Gibson after Parramatta defeated Manly in the 1983 grand final at the SCG in Sydney.
A young Jack Gibson, from his playing days
Jack Gibson (1929-2008) was an Australian rugby league identity – a player, commentator and most notably a coach. He played and coached in Sydney's top grade competition, the New South Wales Rugby Football League, and earned the tag 'Supercoach' after guiding Eastern Suburbs to premierships in 1974 and 1975 and later the Parramatta Eels to three successive premierships from 1981 to 1983. Gibson was highly regarded not only for his coaching record but also for his thirst for innovation. He introduced new coaching and training methods into the sport in the 1970s and 1980s, when first-grade rugby league was then still played and coached on a semi-professional basis.
Some of Gibson’s innovations include:
- First to use a computer to evaluate player performance including being the first club coach to track and use individual player tackle counts.
- His teams were the first to train with sides from other codes – he trained his team alongside soccer players and used Australian Football specialists as kicking coaches.
- Introduced mascara under the eyes to reduce glare for night games under lights.
- First to use weights-machines such as the Nautilus exercise machines.
- First to use video extensively as a coaching device.
- First to have players' fitness scientifically tested in pre-season with the "pinch test" (skinfold method).
- First to insist upon his own integrated coaching team including co-ordinator (Ron Massey), fitness conditioner (Mick Souter) and injury treatment/rehabilitation (Alf Richards).
- Made the up and under ("bomb") a potent attacking weapon used by both Easts and Parramatta under exponent John Peard.
Ten days before his death at age 79 he was named Coach of the Century by the Australian Rugby League.
According to coach Wayne Bennett:
"He's the most influential coach the game has ever had. He changed the face of our game in how coaches were perceived and how the game was played, and approached. That's his greatest legacy; he brought us out of the dark ages into a credible place in sport. As a person, I loved the guy. He had charisma. He had an aura.''
Coach Bob Fulton:
"He's done more for coaching than any coach since the inception of the game. He put football coaching on the professional roll of honour."
His phrase “Played strong, done fine” became his signature expression of praise. In Gibson’s eyes there was no higher accolade. Those four simple words are not, however, simply a form of post-match praise and comment, they can also be a goal for each of us.