Gentle initiation to Kangaroos

y Wayne Cousins As far as initiations go, new Australian Assistant Coach Peter Gentle knows he got off lightly.

Gentle fell victim to a prank in the first few days in camp at Coogee. It was part of his welcome to the Kangaroos.

"No one has owned up but I have got a fair idea who it was. They put chilli on top of my beer bottle,'' he laughed.

"It burnt my lips a bit and I tried to show there was nothing there but then I started sweating up. I have my guard up now."

With Royce Simmons heading to St Helens, the position of Kangaroos Assistant Coach became vacant. Australian and Wests Tigers Coach Tim Sheens asked Gentle about the position and was later endorsed by the ARL Board.

It is another feather in the cap for Gentle, who has been with the Wests Tigers for the past three seasons as an Assistant Coach to the NRL team.

He was the coach of the Wests Tigers U20s team in 2008 after coming up through the junior coaching ranks of the Western Suburbs Magpies.

"Tim has me looking after the Kangaroos' defence with David Furner taking care of the offence. He floats in between the two of us and oversees it all,'' Gentle said.

"I am also doing a bit of video analysis as well, so between the three of us, everything is covered.

"It is very exciting to work with the calibre of these players at the elite level. It is challenging from our point of view as you have to be able to give them something and not float along with them.

"There is more pressure on you and it is more intense than at club level. As Tim says, you can't micro manage the players. You don't have them for a pre-season to work on their deficiencies.

"You need to play to their strengths and incorporate that into the game plan. You have to practice working as a unit in team defence rather than individually trying to solve things."

Gentle said it was hard not to be impressed by the high level of professionalism shown by players such as Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva.

"What stands out is their attention to detail. Many of the players stay back after the training session is over to work on their own games," he said.

"They tick every little box. They will wear their compression garments, they will stretch, they will hydrate and will eat the right foods. The senior players really do set the benchmark for the rookies in the squad."

Gentle said he was also looking forward to the challenge of coaching against Wests Tigers stars Benji Marshall and Gareth Ellis.

"I've now got the Australian shirt on and they have the Kiwis and Pommy shirts on, so I will treat them the same as anyone else," he said.

"Their are no secrets in camp. Everyone gives everyone up. This is not to say we will be going after Benji or Gareth but we know their strengths and know how to shut them down. It will be interesting."

Gentle was also of the opinion the Four Nations would prove very beneficial for Wests Tigers centre Chris Lawrence who joins club team-mates Robbie Farah and winger Lote Tuqiri in the Kangaroos camp.

"Whether he gets a game or not, just being in the presence of these elite players in the way they talk and act will help him," he said.

"Chris was a professional before he went into camp but this will just take him to the next level. Just the training he will do with them will benefit him.

"He is going to be one of the game's best centres and will be a big chance for NSW Origin selection next year."