This week we have a guest post from the first co-admin of the web’s very first Roosters online forum, http://www.sydroosters.com. You may have seen him on Twitter as @bonditricolours or @thatmetalman perhaps?
Tim Rimington is a self-confessed one-eyed Roosters fan, and the other eye only sees three colours. Given he’s literally been around since the invention of the internet, who better to discuss the many eras of the Eastern Suburbs/Sydney City/Sydney Roosters than this guy?
Without further ado, here’s an opinion piece on the very man who has led this club to premiership glory, wooden spoon gore and everything between.
Looking back on the past 20 years of Roosters Chairman, Nick Politis.
BY Tim Rimington
Mention the name Nick Politis within earshot of any Roosters supporter and you’re sure to get a reaction. Nick Politis is, for all intents, a demigod in the eyes of many Roosters fans. Given the high profile names lured to the Roosters under the stewardship of Politis since he took the club’s reins in 1993, it’s no wonder that the club’s supporters hold the man in such high regard.
In the minutes after the club’s 2002 grand final win, Brad Fittler proclaimed, “This one’s for you, Nick!” At that moment it was made clear — by Fittler at least — that Politis was the club’s main man, its backbone, its heartbeat, and gatekeeper of the club’s soul.
To question Politis’ loyalty to the red, white and blue would be similar to questioning John Howard’s allegiance to the Queen.
The fact Politis grants few interviews with the media adds to the man’s mystique. Roosters fans confidently accept that the “man of mystery” is looking after their best interests by ruthlessly taking care of business behind the club’s hallowed walls; for some Roosters fans, standing in Politis’ office at Bondi Junction would be akin to a US patriot standing in the White House’s Oval Office.
It’s not so much that club supporters exhibit blind faith in Politis, it’s more that Politis has a knack of leading the club out of darkness time and time again, even when things appear hopeless.
The Phil Gould signing and a decade of winning.
When Politis brought premiership winning and NSW Origin coach Phil Gould to the Roosters in late 1994, it was a coup that would lead the club into its brightest era since the Jack Gibson years of the 1970s. Gould’s legacy at the Roosters would continue long after he left, with coach Graham Murray and rookie coach Ricky Stuart both enjoying the green pastures built by Gould’s six-year tenure as head coach in the years prior.
Without Politis, the Roosters may never have enjoyed a decade of on-field success during the mid-90s to 2004; just cast your mind back to the Roosters prior to Politis in 1993 and you’ll recall how things weren’t going so great.
But what of the years when the club failed to produce results such as the post-Ricky Stuart years and the years after Brian Smith’s influence had well and truly worn off?
Although Ricky Stuart had access to an extraordinary player roster during his tenure, the rigours of playing competitive football for a coach who demanded perfection at all times eventually wore the players into the ground. That, together with three consecutive grand final appearances in 2002-2004, was enough to sap the fun from the players’ footy.
Those close to the team could see that Stuart’s style of coaching was now having a reverse effect (are any Melbourne Storm fans paying attention here?).
Something had to be done.
The near-Wayne Bennett Era and the fallout.
At the end of the 2006 season Politis stepped in and sacked Stuart along with Stuart’s coaching staff before installing former Melbourne Storm coach Chris Anderson. The move shocked everyone at the time – players and fans alike – but there were more shocks ahead.
Many of these hurdles may have been averted if “super coach” Wayne Bennett hadn’t reneged on his handshake deal with Politis in 2006 to replace Ricky Stuart, and there’s enough to suggest that the Roosters wouldn’t have endured the difficult years following Stuart’s sacking if Bennett had kept his side of the bargain; it would take the club seven years to recover from the mess that would follow Stuart’s departure, such was the position Politis — and club — had been placed in by Bennett’s decision to renege on the agreement between the pair.
Reports suggest that Politis has not spoken to Bennett since; the fallout that resulted from Wayne Bennett’s broken deal would be felt for years.
The rise and fall of the favourite son.
There was perhaps no greater fallout from the Wayne Bennett saga than the day Politis made the toughest call of his chairman years. When Chris Anderson resigned mid-season in 2007 after a disastrous stint at the club, Brad Fittler was elevated to head coach and enjoyed early success with emphatic wins over Ricky Stuart’s Cronulla Sharks and premiership front-runners, Melbourne Storm. Fittler coached the club to a return to the finals series the following year.
However, storm clouds were brewing, and Fittler’s brief coaching stint came to an ugly end when Politis signed Brian Smith and sacked the club’s favourite son after the club earned the 2009 season’s wooden spoon.
Phil Gould said years later that apparently Politis was inconsolable after sacking Freddy. In fact, only this past year have we seen Fittler become more involved with the club by appearing at official club functions, such was the effect that Politis’ sacking had on him (and as Freddy said publicly at the time, it was how he found out that hurt the most, i.e. through the media rather than from Politis himself).
So we know that Politis is a tough guy, and it’s this level of toughness that has kept the Roosters from merging with rival clubs during the Super league war of the mid-1990s and kept the club in strong financial shape through wise investments and structures.
But every tough guy has his weaknesses, right?
Bad signings, I’ve made a few, a new epoch emerges from the rubble.
Before the start of the 2013 season there were those who were critical of the way Politis had handled the club’s player roster in the years prior. Some members of the public maintained that Politis had made one too many bad calls when it came to the club’s player recruitment.
Willie Mason is one name that springs to mind; Mark O’Meley and Mark Riddell are just two more. Some of those player’s allegiances came with a question mark; fans could see it, so why couldn’t Politis (who, it is said, rubber stamps all player signings)?
Under Politis’ guidance the club has also lost great talent including, but not limited to, Todd Carney, Tom Symonds, Braith Anasta, Justin Carney, Phil Graham, Jason Ryles, Sam Perrett, Mose Masoe and Anthony Cherington (although in fairness to the club, most, if not all, of these players were better served by leaving the Roosters and seeking clubs elsewhere).
In hindsight there probably isn’t a player here (Symonds excepted) most fans would trade for the club’s 2013 squad, but there’s extraordinary talent listed above nevertheless.
Leading into the 2013 season it had appeared to some that Politis may have finally lost his marbles; he’d brought human headline Sonny Bill Williams to the club at great expense, had installed a rookie coach that few had heard of, and wrote more player cheques than he’d written in recent club history.
Was this a case of the Roosters trying to buy a premiership, such was the impression held by opposing clubs and some in the media over the last 20-odd years? Club officials were rubbing their hands with glee, but supporters were clenching their backsides tight in anticipation – and worry – that “Uncle” Nick had, indeed, finally bitten off more than he could chew.
Or so it seemed.
After just six rounds of football in 2013, TV commentators had declared that Politis’ moves in the off-season were a stroke of genius. The mere presence of Sonny Bill Williams at the Roosters had shifted the player’s attitudes skyward; “rookie” coach Trent Robinson was being hailed as the next Jack Gibson due to his motivating skills and talents as a sharp tactician, and the big name signings such as Michael Jennings and James Maloney had taken to the club like ducks at Centennial Park.
Optimism at the Roosters hasn’t been this high since 2010, and for at least six years before then.
If Politis were to exit the Roosters tomorrow, 2013 would arguably be his defining year, even eclipsing the years when he lured Phil Gould to the club, and the Australian captain, Brad Fittler, a year later.
But something tells me that this man of relative mystery still has a few tricks left up his sleeve. And with Nick Politis as club chairman, the future is (still) looking bright.
— Tim Rimington.