It is very rare that a terrible coach can manage to win a Premiership. It does happen from time to time (Hello Michael Hagan) but for the most part, the best coaches normally share the spoils.
With the NRL salary cap strictly policed and teams not recruiting youngsters from all over the place, the biggest change a club can make to their teams overall performance these days comes from the coach. This has seen the best coaches in the game now commanding over $1 million per year, and that is not even taking into account the costs involved in bringing their coaching and training staff with them.
It is almost an accepted fact that right now, Craig Bellamy is the best coach in the game. Right behind him is the likes of Wayne Bennett and Des Hasler, both of whom were headhunted by clubs looking to turn around results in a hurry.
When you are earning the big money those three are on, the pressure is there to get the results. For Bellamy and Hasler, the results over the last 12 months have been great. For Bennett, the Knights average results coupled with Nathan Tinklers financial problems have seen some question whether he has been worth the money he is on in Newcastle.
Those type of issues are something Steve Price would love to have at the St George.Illawarra Dragons. He inherited the already decaying reminants of Wayne Bennetts old Dragons team. With a Premiership win not too long ago, Dragons fans have expected better results than Price has been able to deliver. Still, its hard to blame him. Since he took over the club has been openly looking for a high priced replacement. Price also hasn’t been helped by the fact that the Dragons have done little to no recruiting over the last few seasons. It is hard to put the boot into the coach when the teams management is happy to sit back and watch the team get worse.
That is the situation Mick Potter inherited himself at the Wests Tigers. A club with a lineup that had been left to decay under Tim Sheens, Potter hasn’t got a great deal to work with right now at the Tigers. Some coaches deserve time to change a side and get results. Others however…
Matthew Elliott stepped into a Warriors team coming off a terrible season in 2012, but one that was in a Grand Final in 2011. The Warriors haven’t lost too many players and with their junior base, they have the talent to still be a force in the NRL this season. Plenty of people have said that Elliott needs to be given time to get the Warriors back on track, but when you look at Matthew Elliotts track record are the Raiders and Panthers, you have to wonder whether he needs time, or just to be moved on.
The same goes for David Furner down in Canberra. Some coaches get a pretty good run, and at some point they can’t blame anyone else for the lack of results their team gets. Neill Henry at the Cowboys is finding that type of pressure being applied to him now, as is Anthony Griffin at the Broncos, if only because that is a club that demands excellence.
Few coaches get seasons that give them a free pass. These are usually coaches that are taking over clubs that need completely rebuilt.
Ivan Cleary is as safe as houses at the Penrith Panthers. With the club in the middle of a rebuild, and with his track record at the Warriors, Cleary’s job is safe, for a while at least. Ricky Stuart is another who is in no danger of losing his job simply because the task ahead of him is so difficult. When fans and the club in general isn’t expecting any decent results for the next couple of years, a coach can find themselves in a fairly safe place.
Shane Flanagan is locked in at the Sharks simply because he has built the team he currently has. Trent Robinson meanwhile takes over a team that was completely changed over the off season, so he is also safe. Still, you have to think that Geoff Toovey at the Manly Sea Eagles would start to feel the heat if the team he has doesn’t fire this season.
Last but not least you have John Cartwright who is at a club that hands out life contracts after every win…
Coaches in the NRL face so many different types of pressure, and the funny thing is that most of the time it is driven by the media. Don’t feel sorry for them though. They all come into the coaching arena knowing how things work. They understand that you live and die by your results and that every coach at some point get the tap on the shoulder.
As the 2013 season draws on, you have to wonder how many of the NRL’s current coaches will make it to seasons end. We know who’s head is on the chopping board, and believe me, they know too!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com