Matt Diskin, Oldham RL Club’s new team boss, admits he is still displaying coaching ‘L’ plates.
“I’ve a lot to learn, but I’m keen to learn and I’m learning all the time,”
said the Dewsbury-born former Leeds Rhinos hooker, who had a glittering playing career under the tutelage of some of the biggest coaching names in the business.
Daryl Powell, Tony Smith and Brian ‘Bluey’ McClennan, an Aussie, have all had Diskin under their wing and the 37-year-old former hooker played with and against the world’s best for more than a decade.
His CV includes three Challenge Cup finals, five Super League Grand Finals and three World Club Challenge games against Melbourne Storm (twice) and Manly Sea Eagles of Sydney, all played at Elland Road in Leeds.
Throw in more than 300 Super League games, a Great Britain appearance and the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match in the 2004 Grand Final at Old Trafford and you have a career of which any rugby league player could be immensely proud.
Had Diskin not been around at the same time as the late Terry Newton, Keiran Cunningham and, in the later stages of his career, a young James Roby, he would no doubt have made a much bigger impact at international level.
Among the props with whom he regularly formed the Leeds front row were Ryan Bailey, Barrie McDermott, Danny Ward, Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock.
And in the last of his three World Club Challenge games, Leeds faced a Melbourne side that included Aussie Test legends Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Cameron Smith.
In 2004, his biggest year, the then 22-year-old Diskin played for Great Britain against New Zealand in a Gillette Tri-Nations tournament that also featured Australia.
Britain won 26-24 with Diskin, Bradford’s Stuart Fielden and Adrian Morley of Sydney Roosters packing down in the front-row.
In the same year he was named Leeds player of the year; Leeds beat derby rivals Bradford in the Grand Final; he won the Harry Sunderland Trophy on a vote of the RL Writers’ Association; and he scored the first Leeds try at Old Trafford.
For good measure, he was also named as hooker in the Super League Dream Team.
“That was definitely my ‘never to be forgotten’ year,”
he mused with the hint of a smile and a twinkle in his eye.
Not that his other Headingley years were without their special moments.
In 2003 he played in his first Challenge Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff when Leeds went down 22-20 to a Bradford Bulls side which included Scott Naylor at right centre.
Two years later he was back at the Millennium Stadium when Leeds were narrowly beaten again, this time 25-24 by Hull.
Later that year he was on the bench in the Rhinos side beaten 15-6 by the Bulls in the Grand Final at Old Trafford when the Bulls halves were Iestyn Harris and Paul Deacon.
The year 2006 was a blank for Rhinos, but in 2007 they were to embark on a four-year period of marvellous success.
Diskin had Leuluai and Peacock as his props in a 33-6 Grand Final win against St Helens, to be followed in 2008 by a 24-16 Grand Final triumph against Saints and an 11-4 defeat of Melbourne Storm at Elland Road in the World Club Challenge, with Diskin featuring prominently in both games.
The year 2009 saw Leeds and Diskin back at Old Trafford for the fifth time in six years, beating Saints 18-10, and also playing in the World Club Challenge against Manly, going down 28-20.
By 2010 his Headingley career was drawing towards its close but not before another big night at Elland Road when Melbourne took the World Club Challenge Trophy back to Australia with an 18-10 win.
Later that year, Diskin got his third and last Challenge Cup medal when he was on the bench, his No 9 job having gone to Danny Buderus, in a 30-6 defeat by Warrington at Wembey.
If this coaching ‘learner’ recovers from his ‘baptism of fire’ at Batley to make half the impact as a coach that he made as a player, starting in his new job at Oldham, he will be throwing away those ‘L’ plates for the last time.