Crammed next to each other in a dingy office with patchy internet, next to the long retired canteen in Concord Oval’s western grandstand, Balin Cupples and Andrew Webster form an unlikely duo.
It’s 2012 and in the organisational pyramid at the Wests Tigers, Webster – an assistant coach with the U-20 side – is technically the senior figure in the room.
But Cupples is quick to tell you his office mate, who at the time was a 30-year-old bachelor just back from a stint working in England, was yet to fully embrace the idea of domestic living.
“He didn’t like taking his washing home, put it that way,” Cupples tells NRL.com with a chuckle.
I had a wife and child, so I was really structured with packed lunches and clean laundry. He was less so.Balin Cupples
“I was physical performance pathways manager and his defensive assistant. I tried to keep the place smelling nice also.
“It was great fun though and there was lots of time where we’d just sit and talk footy… his footy IQ even back then was well beyond his years.”
A decade on from crossing paths as fledgling players in the Wests Tigers junior system, the pair were reunited at the joint venture and began what has become a long and fruitful working relationship and friendship.
Webster graduated to be the head coach of the U-20 side in 2014 – leading a team that included current Warriors five-eighth Te Maire Martin – before moving to the Warriors the following year and lobbying for Cupples to be considered for the vacant head of athletic performance there, a position he got and held for the next four seasons.
Both men ended up departing eventually, with Webster moving back to the Wests Tigers and then on to the Penrith Panthers and Cupples having a stint at the Knights, before returning to the Warriors as head of performance in 2022.
Needless to say he was over the moon when he found out in the middle of last season that his old mate would be returning to the club as head coach, even though it led to his office being moved to the downstairs gym at Go Media Stadium, triggering memories of the Concord experience all over again.
“He’s put us in a little glass box,” Cupples jokes.
“But to all come back together now and do what we are doing at the club, it’s really rewarding and exciting.
“If I haven’t been working with Webby I’ve always been touching base with him and looking for his opinion on stuff.
“I was really excited for him and the success he had at the Panthers and to see him get the head role here was great.
“He hasn’t changed that much. He’s a charmer, he communicates well and connects with everybody.
“He was probably a bit more of a larrikin back then, but there’s still a bit of that in him now.”
The pair’s strong working relationship can’t be overlooked when considering the factors involved in the Warriors’ remarkable transformation this year, which has them facing the Broncos this Saturday night for a spot in the grand final.
Match: Broncos v Warriors
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
CEO Cameron George said bringing the pair back into the fold, along with former head coach Andrew McFadden who is now the general manager of recruitment, development and pathways, has delivered value across the board.
“Having those guys here at the club that have prior experience with us, they knew what they were walking into,” George says.
“They had experiences when they left and have come back with more capability.
Both Andrew and Balin are terrific people. Quite often you see them talking and you can tell they are very connected.Cameron George
“They rely heavily on each other and are certainly very close in their working approach and are doing an outstanding job.”