When Ruan Sims and the rest of the Jillaroos saw that cheeky grin on Steve Folkes’s face, they knew they were about to be flogged up and down the paddock by one of the fittest men rugby league has seen.
And when the proverbial was set to dismantle the blue and white fan, the tough as Tungsten four-time premiership winner was who Braith Anasta and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs turned to.
Tributes are flowing thick and fast as the game mourns the loss of Folkes, who passed away suddenly on Tuesday of a heart attack.
Both Willie Mason and Sonny Bill Williams had spectacular fallouts, followed by prompt walk-outs, to end their time at Belmore under him. But the larger than life pair were just as quick to acknowledge Folkes’s contribution to their careers.
For 2004 title winner Anasta, Folkes’s ticker beat throughout the club when salary cap and sexual assault scandals brought the joint to its knees, only for Folkes to lift it once more to premiership glory by season’s end.
“You didn’t realise how great he was as a coach and a mentor until you weren’t coached by him,” Anasta told NRL.com.
“But talking to the other boys in that 2004 team, the consensus is no other coach would’ve been able to get us to the title given all that was going on around us.
“He was a champion coach and a champion bloke.
“It was a crazy time that period, and if we didn’t have Folksey there I don’t think the team, we were all very talented but given what was going on, I don’t think we could’ve kept it together. I don’t think we would have won it.
“The best coaches are the ones that when the shit hits the fan, they can still get the best out of you, and that’s what Folksey was.
“He was the Dogs culture. Everything was about that family culture and what Canterbury was built on. He was and is the Canterbury Bulldogs.”
It was Folkes who crowned Sims as Jillaroos captain when he took over as coach of the national womens team in 2014.
Some 20-odd years earlier he had retired after 245 games for his beloved Bulldogs, and brother-in-law Chris Anderson urged him to pick up the clipboard after five years as his conditioning trainer at Canterbury.
Folkes described himself as someone who all but fell into coaching, with a push from old teammate Anderson, but in a telling legacy, the Jillaroos’ profile rose to deserved new heights under his watch.
“At first he was very quiet and probably a bit shocked at being confronted by 26 women but I have the fondest memories of working him,” Sims laughs.
“When he knew we were in for fitness, that was the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news (of Folkes’s death), that cheeky grin he’d get when we were in for a long session.
“Folksey played such a significant role in elevating the profile of the Jillaroos and the women’s game.
“When he took over as coach we’d won a World Cup and were a successful team, but someone with his profile and background was instrumental in getting rugby league fans to know the Jillaroos and putting the women’s game on the map.
“He’s got an enormous legacy to the women’s game and we’ll be forever grateful.”