Auld Lang Syne: ex-coach won't bask in reflected glory
Regrets ... Souths' previous coach John Lang. Photo: Getty Images
YOU phone John Lang, and expect him to at least want some credit for South Sydney's appearance in more than four decades. But he won't. And that's to his credit.
''I'll be honest,'' he starts. ''I appreciate the fact that other people feel that I may have played some part. But I can't feel I played much part. I did the best job I could.
''I enjoyed my time at Souths. For me, it started as a consultant, then I was the football manager, and I did everything I could in that time. Then I was head coach for two years.
''If anybody should feel like they want to give me any credit, I'll take it. But I don't think I can claim too much of it.''
That's Lang, understated as beige. The fact remains that this is the team Lang had a significant hand in building. He was the first coach Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis played under at the club, and he oversaw the emergence of the likes of Dylan Farrell and Nathan Peats.
He was unable to take the Rabbitohs to the finals in his two seasons, 2010 and 2011, and then retired as head coach (he had come out of retirement to coach the club). Since, Michael Maguire has taken over, and the team has gelled and excelled.
Yet Lang has no regrets that he is not still at the club to witness it.
''I always knew that was the deal,'' Lang said. ''I've got regrets that we didn't do better when I was there. I would have liked to have had success when I was there. But I couldn't possibly say with any certainty that if I was there, they would be having the same success.
''It was a tough job, probably the hardest job I've had. That's just the way it is. I've been in footy for a long time, and you have your good runs, and you have your bad ones.''
Lang heaped praise on Maguire for ensuring the side have had largely the former this year.
''The big thing is, they've been consistent,'' Lang said. There have been very few games which they have just handed to the other side. I know they've been criticised for fading in and out of games, but from week to week, they've certainly been consistent. Really, they've probably been the most consistent side; they've never had a real bad patch.
''Their defence has improved. Michael Maguire has done a tremendous job. To be honest, it's hard to picture anyone doing a better job.''
He has watched the Rabbitohs on television this year, and has enjoyed the likes of Peats, Farrell and John Sutton blossoming. The man who coached Penrith to a premiership in 2003 will watch Saturday night's clash with the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium from his loungeroom.
''It comes down to how well you play on the day,'' Lang said of the Rabbitohs' prospects. ''The Dogs deserve to be favourites - Souths' big players have to have big games.
''Everyone's got to do their job, because that's been the strength of their season.
''If Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess and Dave Taylor have blinders, Souths are probably home.''
With, surely, some credit going to Lang.