General Bell keen to boost Warriors


League: Bell keen to boost Warriors

Sunday August 6, 2006
By Michael Brown

As Dean Bell was shown around Warriors HQ last week, his mind wandered to what it might be like to work for the club he captained in their first season more than 10 years ago.

It's something he has been thinking about more frequently of late, especially as he contemplates the fact he's spent a large proportion of his 44 years abroad as a player, then coach and now development officer. After all, he's Otara born and bred and a proud Kiwi at heart.

"I'm very happy with what I'm doing [overseeing Wigan's development programme] but there's always that thing in the back of my mind about coming home," Bell says during a holiday with his family in Auckland. "Being back here means it's burning brighter than ever. I think I could make a big difference, too.

"Obviously there's only one professional team in this country but, while I don't want to sound like I'm after a job because I'm happy where I am, if there was an opportunity, I would seriously look at it."

With moves afoot for the Warriors to join an NRL under-20 league in 2008 or resurrect a reserve side to play in New Zealand or Australia, there might soon be an opening. Ideally, he would relish replicating the work he does at Wigan.

"We'd love a former captain of the club to be involved in some way at some stage," says Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah. "But we haven't talked about anything and we have only a small football department."

Bell got a closer look at the current crop of Warriors last night when they took on the Sharks and handed out the jerseys to the players on a special night for veteran Awen Guttenbeil.

Bell's thoughts would have drifted back to March 10, 1995, when he led out the Warriors for their first ever ARL game in his final season as a player.

"I think about that first season all the time. If you could script a way to finish your career, it would be exactly the way I did it.

"I could have finished my career at Wembley Stadium lifting the Challenge Cup but it was perfect to come back to my place of birth and play in the Australian Rugby League, as it was then. It was a dream come true."

Bell had a lot of doubts about returning to New Zealand to play when he was approached in the Wigan carpark by new Warriors coach John Monie. In fact, he laughed at Monie, reminded him he was 33 and that his body was falling apart but "it planted the seed and it just ate away at me. It was too much of a challenge and I knew I would have had regrets if I hadn't done it."

Bell's biggest worry was that he would fail to live up to the expectations New Zealanders would have of a player they had rarely seen in the flesh. He had frequently been trumpeted as one of rugby league's finest centres - a player Kiwis watched in the early hours of the morning lifting the Challenge Cup for seven consecutive years of unprecedented success with Wigan and a player who captained his country to international triumphs after years of barren results.

He was part of a select group of players such as Hugh McGahan, Mark Graham and his cousin Clayton Friend who had helped lift rugby league out of its dormancy.

In the end, he needn't have worried. The Warriors famously missed a playoff spot in that first season after losing competition points for making too many substitutions in one game.

Although he was offered another year at the Warriors, Bell retired with a sense of satisfaction. He hadn't made a fool of himself after all.

Although he knew it was the right time, dealing with retirement was difficult. "I wasn't good at planning life after rugby league," he explains. "It was a traumatic time and it took me a few years to get over."

He took up the position of Leeds head coach but after two frustrating seasons - when he couldn't understand why some players didn't have his passion for the game (he famously pulled on the boots one last time in 1996 when that frustration got the better of him) - he realised it wasn't for him. Working with juniors was his calling.

"I found it frustrating that players were so set in their ways so I thought I would get a bigger reward teaching youngsters," he says.

"If I could do something before they got to first-team level, that was my calling. It was not a matter of if but when I would go back to Wigan."

That was six years ago, when Wigan supremo Maurice Lindsay invited him back to the glamour Lancashire club. He now scouts, recruits, develops and mentors players aged 13 to 16 and admits he uses his profile to attract them to the club. "Some of them are now at an age when they might not know who I am but their parents remember," he chuckles.

There are plenty of parents in New Zealand who remember, too. The Warriors have said they want to establish the club as one for which young Kiwis aspire to play.

They could do a lot worse than getting Dean Bell on board


LOl that's food for thought. Although if you were to have him onbard what would you want his role to be?

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