The 12-month long sabbatical in Italy of Ron “Super Coach” McCarthy has ended and he has returned to the Great Lakes, and is back in his second home of the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins’ rugby union clubhouse.
When a rugby nomad from Italy wandered into Forster in 2016, his conversations fired a thought within the McCarthy household about what they might do upon Ron’s retirement from Gloucester High School.
Discussions and decisions made, Ron and wife Jenny packed for their most extensive holiday, departing before Ron’s annual Autumn coaching pangs intruded again.
What eventuated was that Australia exported a multiple premiership-winning rugby coach to Italy, at some modest expense, providing memories and vacation of a lifetime.
Some disturbing news filtered through during preparations – later confirmed - that their destination, Perugia, a city in central Italy had a history of earthquake experience.
On making further enquiries and researching Mr Google they learned that on separate occasions the townships of Norcia and Accumoli, likewise on Italy’s mountain spine, had been seriously damaged by earthquakes, one major shake claiming 159 lives, the other 247.
One tremor was sufficiently serious to crack the walls of St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome.
Undeterred and possessed of adventurous spirit, they flew to Italy, settling in Perugia to be informed by phlegmatic Italian neighbours with a shrug of shoulders: “Earthquake? Oh, another mountain range, 50 kilometres away.”
Less reassuring were the spectacles of destroyed villages, left broken and standing as tragic memorials.
As it eventuated, a more blissful stay and pleasurable holiday they could not have enjoyed. Better still, Italy’s mountains never moved, let alone tremble under-foot.
Such was the efficiency of public transport by train and coach that a car was almost needless. With visa-renewal required after 90 days, the McCarthys visited nearby countries, Croatia a favourite, the nation having recovered economically and spiritually from the Bosnian war’s bitter conflict.
Involvement in local rugby was inevitable. Ron became coach of Perugia’s womens team, having as many as 35 players training under his tutelage. “Fearless scrummagers”, they finished fourth in their competition.
Ron’s coaching credentials were excellent. Initially, a fullback and five-eighth with the Taree Bulldogs in 1976-77, he won a Mid North Coast premiership when his team defeated Port Macquarie in a huge upset before school teaching took him away for some years.
Upon his return, Ron became the Bulldogs’ captain-coach before joining the newly-rebirthed Forster Tuncurry club in 2004 as coach of its Under-19 team and then head coach in 2007.
Division of the M.N.C. Zone brought the Dolphins rich dividends. In 2008 and 2010 the club won Lower M.N.C. premierships and then through four winters from 2013-2016, the Dolphins won a succession of premierships, all under McCarthy’s tutelage.
Now, he’s back. And not a moment too soon.
The abrupt departure of McCarthy’s successor 10 days before the kick-off of the Kennards Hire premiership left the Dolphins in desperate straits, without coaching guidance for two months. Ron’s quiet organisational skills were evident in the Dolphins’ recent 31-7 and five tries to one defeat of the Manning River Ratz.
Now, as a result of the Old Bar Clams’ pulsating 27-26 defeat of the Wallamba Bulls, the race is on again in the premiership, the Dolphins neck and neck with Wallamba. Better still, the Clams are breathing exciting new oxygen, the final four no longer clear cut.
Next Saturday (June 16), the Dolphins play the Gloucester Cockies in Gloucester and Wallamba meet Manning River at Nabiac. Old Bar have the bye.