Spray ‘brought him to tears’ but set tone for premiership run

Michael Hagan wasn’t known for his sprays but on this night, he let rip.

His target? Josh Perry.

The Knights were playing the Wests Tigers in Round 23 and gearing up for a run into the finals.

Perry, a prop in his rookie season, produced consecutive mistakes and Hagan was livid.

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The Knights lost the game at Campbelltown Stadium 36-32.

With the veins in his neck and forehead throbbing, Hagan unleashed.

By the time the 2001 premiership winning coach was finished with Perry, he was reduced to tears.

But it set the tone for the rest of the season and ultimately a grand final victory.

“We lead the game comfortably at half time and I made the mistake of getting a little bit ahead of ourselves in my comments around how we were travelling that night,” Hagan explained.

“But we then went from comfortably in front and Josh (had) come up with three errors in three carries, and they scored three tries on the back of those three errors. We lost the game by (four).

“I thought my head was going to explode, the blood vessels and the rage that I experienced. I can’t remember feeling that angry until that night. And Josh, I got him in my sights and bought him to tears post-game.

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“He’s 110 kilograms so, I thought that was a good achievement.

“He responded, and I think our finish to the year and ultimately how we went on to win the premiership was probably, that wasn’t the defining moment, but it was a pretty important spray in the context of what the standards should be and that we had to be a bit better at things.”

That season, the Knights had the perfect blend of personalities.

It made for a wonderful team dynamic.

With youngsters hungry to establish themselves, veterans who had conquered the game and the workers pushing for higher honours, Hagan was blessed.

While the on-field talent was important, the personalities off it couldn’t be understated.

“We had a lot of different characters that seemed to work back then. They all worked hard and knew when to have fun,” Hagan said.

Much has been made of the grand final breakfast in 2001 where the Parramatta players sported turtlenecks and refused to look at the Knights players.

Many described that breakfast as the moment the Knights knew they had the game won.

The Eels looked stiff and nervous.

But not the Knights. In fact, Mark Hughes used this day as an opportunity to play a practical joke on his coach.

“I remember we had the press conference on the Tuesday (in Sydney). There were probably 30-40 journos there that day and the questions came about the grand final and expectations,” Hagan explained.

“Then this question came from the deep, and it said; ‘Michael, did you think about making Mark Hughes captain instead of Andrew Johns this year?’. I could tell it was Mark Hughes hiding amongst the journos.

“I said; ‘actually mate, I never gave it a thought’.

“He had a real good knack of lightening the mood.”