CAREER HIGHLIGHT: John Mayes, of Evans Head, was coached by league great Jack Gibson.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: John Mayes, of Evans Head, was coached by league great Jack Gibson.

Jack Gibson 'Super Coach' remembered

TO have played strong and done fine for Jack Gibson is an honour Evans Head's John Mayes will never forget.

Gibson, long dubbed rugby league's 'Super Coach' and the man with a unique turn of phrase, died last Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

And for Mayes, winning two premierships with Gibson as coach at Eastern Suburbs in 1974 and 1975 rates as highlights in his league career.

"It's unbelievable how lucky I was to play there under Jack," Mayes said.

"I feel really privileged.

"I watched the tribute on television yesterday (Sunday) and I had a lump in my throat."

Mayes, who will attend Gibson's funeral tomorrow in Sydney, was an Easts junior who broke into grade in 1967.

However, he was behind Kevin Junee at halfback and he eventually switched to Manly in 1973 where he won a first grade premiership and played every match.

Gibson returned for a second stint at Easts in 1974 and immediately lured Mayes back to the Roosters.

"I had no intention of going back to Easts after such a successful season and winning the premiership," Mayes recalled.

"I had a deposit on a house at Cromer and was ready to make the move when I found out Jack Gibson had been looking for me.

"I met him that night with a few of the boys and he said, 'This is the deal', and I thought that was pretty attractive.

"I told him I'd have to ring Ken Arthurson at Manly to talk to him and Jack said, 'Don't ring him he's missed the boat'.

"I signed then and there."

The spur of the moment decision turned out well for Mayes as he claimed second and third premierships with Easts in an all-star team.

Gibson drove his charges to new heights with revolutionary training methods.

But it was Gibson's aura that Mayes remembers most.

"You just had such respect for him and a little bit of fear in there too for us younger blokes," Mayes said.

"He commanded attention and he didn't have to say anything.

"You were always thinking when he walked past 'I hope he doesn't pick me up for something'.

"If he gave you a nod with his head you knew you were going alright."

Mayes remembers it didn't take much from Gibson to motivate him during those years at Easts.

"During 1975 I was having trouble with a shoulder injury," he said.

"I was wondering whether I should play this one week or not and then I looked over to see Jack looking at me.

"I was going to have a fitness test but I remember thinking he must of thought I was a big sook.

"He came over and said, 'Sometimes you've got to play with pain'.

"I told him I'd thought I'd be right. It was a quick fitness test."


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