Phil Stewart and Peter Brown.
Phil Stewart and Peter Brown. Gary Nichols

Stewart, Brown take charge

WHEN Phil Stewart and Peter Brown played for the Ghosts the 10m rule didn't exist and scrums were a contest.

Ice baths were nowhere to be seen and instead of downing a power drink after the match a case of VB was tossed into the middle of the change room to help ease the pain of battle.

Players wore loose-fitting jerseys, some with the collar tucked in, and a weight session comprised of players throwing teammates over their shoulders in a fireman's carry and sprinting the length of the field.

Now we have players so bulked up on weights, when they throw on their playing jumper they resemble a condom choc-full of walnuts.

The two former players have been appointed co-coaches of the Ghosts reserve grade this season and admit rugby league in the modern era has changed dramatically from when they took the field.

"The players have a lot more skill now. When we played it was basically all about fitness," Stewart said.

"Now it's all about drills, techniques, improving your ball skills and running lines.

"The furthest they've sprinted at training is 70m.

"They haven't sprinted 100m yet."

Brown agreed: "They make training a lot easier these days to keep the players happy. It's not boring.

"When we trained there was a lot of head-bashing."

In their playing days Stewart and Brown were hard-nosed forwards who witnessed plenty of illegalities when it came to packing down in the scrum.

"Back then you were allowed to push in the scrum. It was all about winning the ball," Stewart said.

"You used to hear the crunches of heads hitting together. Now they just pat each other and come in gentle."

Brown added: "The hooker had to sit on the prop's inside leg and you never gave the opposition the loosehead.

"If there wasn't any blood coming out of you, you weren't hitting them (opposition) hard enough."

Both coaches admit they're excited about their team's chances this year, and with a strong squad to choose from it could be a breakthrough year for the Ghosts' reserve grade side.

"Just selecting the 13 in reserve grade is going to be hard. But in saying that there's always injuries and players being called on to play first grade," Stewart said.

"I must admit we've got a better squad than last year, so we should go all right."

It's no secret the bane of reserve grade coaches is losing their key players to the top grade, something Brown says goes with the job.

"Our aim is to try to get as many players as possible to have a taste of first grade," he said.

"Because we have so many players, the hardest thing for us will be keeping them keen and happy."

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