Meet Lee Addison – The Online Rugby League Coach

The world has fitness guru Joe Wicks and Rugby League has coaching guru Lee Addison.

Self-isolation has somewhat diversified the training methods of Rugby League players, worldwide, but the Salford-born coach found a way of streamlining training regimes two years ago.

His website was, by his own admission, created out of frustration over lack of coaching opportunities in the professional game. Since then, the online platform has evolved to become the biggest online Rugby League resource in the world.

Among the plethora of available resources are: video sessions, informative articles and weekly messages to guide aspiring players to improve their game.

Advice from everything such as friendship management to lifestyle choices and a bespoke fitness programme all form part of the website.

Partner that content with Addison’s clear passion for the sport and, despite being initially born out of frustration, the website’s message is succinct and constructive.

“I just got really fed up with not getting the opportunities I felt I deserved,” he told Total Rugby League.

“In 2016, I got offered the North Wales Crusaders job. The one that Mike Grady ended up getting. I just couldn’t take it, because I couldn’t give up the teaching job that I had in a school, over here in Australia.

“The package was too far apart from what I wanted. That could’ve been me coming back home for a bit and breaking into the professional ranks, which has always been an ambition of mine.

“Two days later, I ended up signing a deal with Normanby Hounds. They used to be in the Brisbane Rugby League Premiership, which is essentially the third division. After I’d been offered the job, they dropped down a division to get the infrastructure of the club back.

“I got a clause in my three-year contract to say if we weren’t in the BRL again, after a year, I’d leave. It quickly became apparent that they needed five years’ worth of work. It got frustrating for me, because I’d worked with USA and Ireland at two World Cups and at NRL clubs.

“I just gave up and quit my teaching job running a rugby league academy and gave up the job at Normanby, a week later. For the first time in 20 years, I didn’t have a coaching job.

“My first ever coaching job was at Salford University, as a 19-year-old. When it was over, it knocked me for six. But sometimes when you hit rock bottom, you’ve got to look up. In that time, off the cuff, someone said I should go online.

“It got me thinking and, two months later, I did some reading and studying. I wasn’t even on Facebook at this point and now I’ve got a social media following of 16,000 people. I studied really hard to learn how to build a website, then launched it in July 2018.”

A month later, facing the abyss of unemployment in the sport, Addison was snapped up to coach Poland ahead of the Emerging Nations campaign.

That was all despite having never visited the country, but with a strong personal connection to the Rugby League minnows. His grandfather, Stanislav Adasko, was Polish and spent time in a Russian labour camp during World War II. Upon his release, he fought at the Battle of Arnhem before setting up camp in England.

Addison flew the flag proudly in the 2018 Emerging Nations campaign, winning the Trophy competition and being the only team unbeaten.

Preparation time was certainly not on the side of the Polish camp, with just six weeks to go until the first game, and travel logistics were an equal problem. Then the lightbulb moment occurred.

“There was a real sliding doors moment for me because I’d just set up a Rugby League coaching website and I had a team that had never met each other,” Addison recalled.

“The first thing I did was give them all a login and we had players dotted all over Australia, some in Poland, one in Majorca, one in USA and a few in the UK.

“They all trained alone and I put the tactics on there, as well as personal messages and their fitness and gym plans. I got them to talk to each other on there, too. The full team had their first session and we’d never met before. I’d taken two sessions in Sydney with half of my Aussie based squad, and two sessions up in Queensland with five players.

“The full squad only met each other six days before the tournament, and we played Hungary in a warm up an hour after meeting each other. All the boys knew what I wanted them to do, not perfectly, but they were in decent shape and knew the tactics before they knew each other, all from the website.

“It did, I would say, a good 60% of my job. The fitness programmes were the most important because they were training in isolation. Two years ahead of the curve, you would say. It was just a great initiation for the business.”

The subsequent evolution of the website has seen members from over 30 countries, with Addison citing Argentina, Poland, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemela as active examples. He currently flagships a player member he has in Nigeria on his social media channels.

And that global surge has been enhanced as a result of the recent Coronavirus outbreak, with Addison’s training plans reaching up to

20,000 views on social media.

“The whole Coronavirus thing, I’m ready for it,” he said. “As a world, we’ve not completely embraced technology.

“People still don’t realise how much you can be coached online, by me, wherever they are in the world.

“Joe Wicks is the highest profile man to do that and this period of isolation will show us what we can do. The virus might bring us kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.”

Addison’s vision and ambition is clear throughout the entirety of the interview, as he flashes up a social media help guide to the camera he is reading beforehand.

He added that the recent acquisition of the old Rugby League coaching magazine content is currently in the works to be redistributed, as the man who never used to have a Facebook page has brought Rugby League coaching online.

That may well assist him in carving his way back into the professional game, or to partner with professional clubs in the future, after a great deal of misfortune at the top level.

“I feel I really have been very unfortunate, I left Manly to go to Penrith because I got a top on the shoulder by Penrith because they’d heard good things,” Addison continued. “Two years later, Gus Gould came in and sacked everyone and I’ve still never met him.

“With the USA, I was Matt Elliott’s assistant for the qualifiers and Terry Matterson’s assistant for the 2013 World Cup, but then the AMNRL lost control of the sport so we stepped aside. I ended up at St Gregory’s in 2010 and I had a fella called James Tedesco in the number six jersey.

“He asked to me play five-eight and I was the first person to put him there. I did three years’ there and I won back-to-back Premierships there. In the third year, the school didn’t prioritise Rugby League, so it was tough.

“I then got a phone call out of the blue to start a new Academy in Queensland at Ipswich State High School, I took them from third in the third division to second in the top tier and went two years undefeated.

“We finished second every year in the top division. I did all that and I achieved things, but no Queensland Cup club came and offered me a job even though I was on their doorstep. Sadly it doesn’t work like that. It’s an old boys’ network.

One of the reasons Rugby League is in such a mess is because it’s always remained with an old way of thinking.

“A lot of administrators and coaches used to play and they still do things that they’re stuck doing from when they played. People protect their positions and it’s dog-eat-dog.

“I always thought I’d get a job on merit. I’ve won a lot of competitions as a coach and developed an awful lot of NRL, State League and Super League players over the last decade and more. Hopefully the website will help me reach those ambitions.”