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Woman who is Perry's Saviour
Woman who is Perry's Saviour

Woman who is Perry's Saviour

Coaching in the News

BORN-AGAIN Manly prop Josh Perry has two coaches.
There's the one we all know about - Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler. The man who saw enough untapped potential in the unwanted former Newcastle Knight to give him a fresh start and a second chance.

Then there's the one you won't have heard of. The "coach" Perry privately credits with saving his career. Her name is Shez Atkins, his life coach and personal mentor.

Atkins admits to having only a limited knowledge of the finer points of rugby league. She leaves that side of things to Hasler and the coaching staff at the Eagles.

But after 15 months of working closely with Perry, she has an intimate knowledge of what makes him tick and how he can get the best out of himself both on and off the field.

A Newcastle-based consultant for the past eight years, Atkins works not only with individuals but with businesses. Perry is not her only sporting "work in progress". She mentors other league players as well as players from rugby and the AFL.

Because of the stigma attached to this kind of help, most like to keep their involvement with her private. But Perry is happy to openly talk for the first time to MainGame about the woman who has "changed my life".

"I was introduced to her through a mate of mine last year (in April) while I was still at the Knights," Perry said this week. "I started just talking to her. I didn't really know much about what people like Shez could do when it first started but I could go on all day about the things she has helped me out with.

"It's hard to explain but it's all just psychological stuff I guess. She just talks everything through and plants little things in your head.

"I was sort of at the point in my career where I could go one of two ways. I could have just kept doing what I was doing and gone through the motions or I could do something about it.

"I decided to go her way and it's paid off. We talk regularly, sometimes daily, and while there are a few people including Des who have really helped me salvage my career, she has been a major part of it for sure."

To his credit, Hasler has recognised just how big an influence Atkins has been for Perry. She is highly regarded as a personal motivator and is regularly at Manly home games and is allowed into the dressing room before kickoff. She even has a seat behind the Manly bench so she can talk to Perry if need be when he comes from the field for a breather.

"I'll regularly talk to him on the phone the night before a game or an hour before kickoff if he wants to talk," she says. "It's all about reassurance and direction and giving him confidence. To lift him up if he is feeling down on himself or to bring him back down if he is too hyped up.

"Josh has got all the tools to fully realise his potential. It's just the mental side of things I am helping him with to make sure he gets there."

The Manly prop believes her kind of help is the way of the future.

"It's more prevalent than you might think already," he says.

"There is a lot of pressure out there and you have got to learn to deal with things. People like Shez help you out with that sort of stuff."

The improvement across the board in Perry's game in the past 12 months is a testament to the work he has done with Atkins and his own desire to become the best player he can be.

Remember, this is a bloke who won a premiership with the Knights in 2001 when he was only 20 and made his Origin debut two years later.

But suspensions, injuries and a self-confessed "lazy attitude" combined to derail his career over the ensuring years to restrict his appearances for the Blues to just that one solitary game. At a time when he could have been establishing himself as one of the best props in the game, Perry instead battled self-doubt and inconsistent form.

Frustration with his own game led to ill-discipline and Perry became known as a hot-headed player who could be easily baited by rival teams.

Ironically, as current teammate Steve Menzies recalls, he became one of Manly's most-hated rivals because of his ability to get under the skin of opposition players.

"It's funny because we were only talking about it the other day - the day Josh had a run-in with Solomon Haumono," Menzies said.

"I think Sol sort of said 'come on, come on' and was walking after him and I don't think Josh was too keen to walk towards him if you know what I mean, which I suppose you have to give him some credit for."

There was also the infamous confrontation with another former Manly forward, Kylie Leuluai, where Leuluai invited Perry to settle their differences behind the grandstand after the game.

"That was a pretty good effort because Kylie was a big bloke but pretty placid and it always took a fair bit to get him riled up," Menzies said.

Newcastle's patience with Perry finally ran out last season when new coach Brian Smith showed him the door. Of all clubs, Manly was the one to step in and show faith in him.

Now, just as Clint Newton left the Knights and went on to win a premiership with Melbourne last year, Perry is hoping to do the same this season with the Eagles.

Armed with self-belief instead of self-doubt, his attitude to just about every aspect of his life has changed and his aggression on the field is now channelled in the right ways.

With his selection in the Kanga- roos' extended World Cup squad, he has even brought forward his career goal of playing for Australia to this season, knowing a big finals series, starting with the Dragons tomorrow night at Brookvale, will see him strongly in contention.

If he happens to nail another premiership and World Cup selection, the two people at the top of his list to thank will no doubt be his two coaches.

To see this article in its orignial format click here.

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