Burleigh coach Lenihan lets go of past pain
Sunday's Intrust Super Cup triumph by the Burleigh Bears represented more than the restoration of a proud club's image but also a day of redemption for coach Jim Lenihan.
A player for Burleigh from 2000-2005, Lenihan took over the reins from Rick Stone as coach in 2006 after a sustained period of success following the club's entry into the Queensland Cup competition in 1997.
Premiers in 1999 and 2004 and runners-up in 2003 and 2005, Burleigh featured at the back-end of the season in all but one year under Stone but when he left the club after 13 seasons a decade of under-achievement followed.
Not only did Burleigh not won a title in the next 10 years but they failed to make the finals series completely and it wasn't until the Bears' 26-16 win over Redcliffe was sealed at Suncorp Stadium that the weight lifted from Lenihan's shoulders.
After four years in charge from 2006-2009 Lenihan walked away from coaching for a year before guiding Bilambil to the 2011 Bycroft Cup crown, eventually returning to Burleigh midway through the 2014 season to right the wrongs of the past.
"Now I don't feel responsible for the demise of the Burleigh Bears anymore," Lenihan told NRL.com.
"I was here when we did it originally with 'Stoney' and then I took over after Stoney and probably felt embarrassed that we couldn't keep it going.
"I know we had an ageing roster and I was probably in a position where I had played with most of the blokes I was coaching not long after but it's important now that it's gone full circle and come back."
When he took over from Carl Briggs two years ago Lenihan conceded that he took on the head coach role before he was ready but returned with a renewed passion to restore Burleigh to its former glory.
"Being separated from it for a couple of years and then coming back you appreciate what a great club it is," Lenihan said.
"You're always learning as a coach but I've certainly picked up a few things from experience and moving forward we'll hopefully make more right decisions than wrong ones."
Darius Boyd, Alex Glenn, Luke Keary, Nathan Ross, Bodene Thompson, Aidan Sezer and even Wendell Sailor have all worn the Bears jersey in first grade and Lenihan said Sunday's grand final win was a victory for every player who has represented the club the past 10 years.
"People in the crowd, the feeling in the club, I just couldn't be happier, not just for the playing group but the players who have been here for the last 10 years and had no success," said Lenihan, with grown men dressed in Burleigh merchandise shedding tears of joy in the stands behind him.
"They're all here and they're all happy and we're all in it together."
Of course, Burleigh's season now extends for a further week with an Intrust Super Championship clash with the Illawarra Cutters prior to the NRL Grand Final on Sunday, an assignment Lenihan will turn his attention to once the euphoria of Sunday's win wears off just a little.
"Today is what we wanted to win. Today is why we go to training and go to rehab and make all the sacrifices. Next week is the cream on top of the cake, but this is what we've done it for," he said.
"We'll have a chat about it on Monday and then maybe Tuesday we'll start getting ourselves ready for what's got to happen.
"It's obviously going to be a bit of a rush with tickets and all that sort of stuff but we'll enjoy this because we don't know what next week brings.
"This is what we came here for so we'll enjoy this, train Tuesday and Thursday and get on the plane Saturday."