Cronulla have paid an emotional tribute to Ron Massey, dedicating their win over North Queensland in Friday’s grand final qualifier to the rugby league coaching legend.
Of all the people to have contributed to the Sharks’ surge to the 2016 NRL season decider, the late Massey might be one of the most important.
Both coach Shane Flanagan and captain Paul Gallen acknowledged the influence Massey, who died on Monday after a long battle with illness, had on their careers.
Just hours after Massey had been laid to rest in a private service, Flanagan used the master mentor’s words of wisdom to inspire his side before their preliminary final thumping of North Queensland.
Flanagan spoke to Massey’s sons Luke and Paul earlier in the day and reflected on the way he had helped mould him into a man after first coming across him while playing for Parramatta.
“I said to the boys before they went out that Mass used to always tell me ‘less is more on these big days, don’t over-coach them and do all the little things right’,” Flanagan said.
“He’s a great man and a great coach and I dedicate the game tonight to him.”
Gallen has long credited Massey with turning his career around.
After repeatedly running foul of the officials, and earning an ugly reputation, early in his career, it was a spray during a private meeting with Massey that helped him turn over a new leaf.
Massey, considered one of the sharpest minds in the game and the right-hand man of coaching great Jack Gibson during his title wins at Eastern Suburbs and Parramatta, famously told Gallen he was “soft” and told him to clean up his act.
The NRL played a video tribute and held a minute’s silence for Massey before Friday’s match and Gallen said he went into the game with his words ringing in his ears.
“I went and saw him a couple of weeks ago and it was pretty emotional,” Gallen said.
“I took my boy to see him, I wanted him to meet him.
“He was really good to me after our initial meeting and he meant a lot to me. He was a good man.”