ILLAWARRA COAL LEAGUE
Wests captain-coach Jason Ryles will miss the first month of the Illawarra Coal League competition because of an Achilles injury suffered in his farewell NRL season with the Melbourne Storm.
While the Devils Coal League rivals will undoubtedly welcome the news, the former test front-rower said the enforced step back from playing duties had helped him come to grips with his first head coaching role
"I hurt my Achilles last year but I didn't actually know until six weeks after the season," he said.
"I had a fair bit of rehab to do but it's definitely coming along and getting better by the week.
"Looking back on it, it's definitely a blessing in disguise.
"I've been able to take a bit of a backward step and just organise training and watch the boys from distance not from right next to them," Ryles said.
"That would have been tough to do otherwise.
"It's [coaching] a bit different to playing - there's a lot more organising and little things to worry about and some people management.
"I'm enjoying it so far but we haven't lost a game yet; it might change when I get on that rollercoaster."
Ryles sought to instil the strict discipline he learned under Storm coach Craig Bellamy in his final two NRL seasons.
He said the Wests players, largely unchanged from 2013, had embraced the regime.
"The boys are training really well and I'm really happy with where we're at," he said.
"I've got my ideas and I'm lucky to have a group of guys who've really bought into it.
"Obviously the real test will be when we actually get out there and play a game.
"We've still got a bit of work to do but there's a great attitude within the group."
Ryles also benefited from the experience of assistant coach and Dragons teammate Mark Riddell, who will run the bench on match day when Ryles is on the paddock.
"I have my own style but I've got a lot of people I can lean on," Ryles said.
"I've got Mark Riddell there to help me out and he's on the same page as me as far as how we want to play our footy.
"He's been coached by Michael Maguire who was at Melbourne for a long time, so we think very similar in regards to keeping it very simple and that sort of thing."