By Rikki-Lee Arnold / QRL Statewide content producer
With the addition of the Western Clydesdales – and kick-off to season 2023 right around the corner – the Queensland Rugby League is profiling our 10 new coaches, whether they’re coming from a different club or are completely new to the Cup arena.
In this edition, we talk to Brisbane Tigers coach Matt Church about his return to his former club and what he wants for his new-look squad in 2023.
Church launched his coaching career with the West Brisbane Panthers’ A grade team in 2006. In 2013 and 2014 he was assistant coach to the Tigers’ Colts team – as well as head coach of the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup side in 2014 – before progressing to be the Colts coach in 2015.
In 2016, Church moved south to take on the job as the Melbourne Storm under 20s assistant coach for two seasons and then the role of development squad head coach in 2018.
He returned to Queensland in 2019 as the Sunshine Coast Falcons Cup assistant coach before he took over the reins as PNG Hunters Cup coach in 2020.
He maintained that post until the end of the 2022 season, which is when he signed on to be the Brisbane Tigers Cup coach.
Q&A with Matt Church
How do you feel returning to the Brisbane Tigers?
It feels like coming home. I’ve been here before as a player and a coach and I live locally, so it does feel like coming home. With what’s happening with the facilities and the upgrade of the stadium, I’m excited to be the coach and be the one to usher that all in. We’ve long had one of the best fields in the competition so to match that with a new stadium, that’s a good thing for our people.
What is your coaching philosophy?
My coaching philosophy is grounded in hard work, a team-first mentality and being accountable to that mentality. It’s been my north star for all of my coaching. If I’m making a decision that’s best for the group, then I can sleep well at night.
Who would you say is your mentor or strongest influence in coaching?
Anthony Seibold. When he was at the Storm and I was at Easts, he was a mentor of mine. I also learnt a lot from getting to see how Craig Bellamy went about his work… he’s someone I have admired up close. And Scott Robertson from the Canterbury Crusaders, I connected with him and spent a bit of a time in his presence. I can be a bit of a geek in that regard. I like knowing what other coaches do and how they go about their business. They’re the three biggest (mentors) I’ve had so far.
What were your first impressions upon returning to the Tigers?
We hadn’t really secured a great deal of the squad yet so that was the first bit of work. Having come out of the Hunters’ system, it’s been an experience dealing with player managers. I’ve had some prior exposure but en masse has been an enjoyable and also sometimes frustrating experience. Then with the Dolphins coming into the NRL and Western Clydesdales having the link with the (Canterbury) Bulldogs, it’s also provided more competitors for players. So it’s been a challenge but something I have really loved is putting together a strong squad.
What are your goals for season 2023?
Personally, to be a strong coach in the competition. It doesn’t have to transfer into results but I want to be one of the best coaches for my players. I have got to this point through hard work. For the team, we want to be the best defensive team in the competition. If we go close to that goal, then we’ll finish in the top four. That will bring us closer to a premiership. I want to be the coach that breaks that drought.
Who within your squad should fans keep an eye out for in 2023?
I think all of our senior players will have strong years. I’m excited to see Corey Thompson back at this level. He still has a desire to be as good as he can be. We’ve also just signed a guy from rugby union, Sam Wallis. He’s played Super Rugby and he’s transitioning to rugby league and I think he can surprise a few people in this competition.