Rating Every Top Line Coach In The National Rugby League

If the 2012 season showed us anything it was that a great coach is worth their weight in gold to any club.

With top coaches now commanding million dollar salaries, clubs are more than aware that a top coach controls the entire destiny of a club. A coaches performance can make or break a club, not just on the field, but off it as well.

You can not just rate a coach purely on where their club finished during the season. All of them face very different circumstances and all clubs have different cultures that need to be worked with.

So lets look at how I rate the big name coaches that we see in the National Rugby League. Keep in mind, these coaches and not listed in order, just by category.

The Best By A Long Way
Craig Bellemy

Easily the best coach in the game. Has had his critics over the salary cap scandal but his performance once again this year showed he can do more with less.

Des Hasler

A winner at the Manly Sea Eagles, he moved to a so-so Canterbury Bulldogs team and win the Minor Premiership in his first season. Their Grand Final loss to the Storm was tough, but there is little doubt the club will be a top contender as long as Des is coaching them.

Very Good Coaches
Wayne Bennett

The Newcastle Knights were terrible this season and their recruitment has been abysmal. You get the feeling Bennett may have lost a bit of his magic touch, but also that he is probably fighting against a culture in Newcastle in which players get signed up because they are mates with the right people. Its hard to rate Bennett lower than this based on one terrible season.

Geoff Toovey

He took over a team that was still heavily influences by Des Haslers coaching, but there were a lot of signs throughout the season that Toovey had what it takes. He has the respect of his players and managed some massive injury problems better than you could ever have hoped for. Of course, time will be the ultimate judge, but on season one, he looked like a very good coach.

Neil Henry

He did alright at the Raiders and while he has had a few tough times at the North Queensland Cowboys, he always brings them back into contention. Yes he has some good talent at his disposal, but he does face some challenges getting the most out of the unique talent he has. I also think the environment of North Queensland is a challenge most forget about. How hard do you push players in the type of heat they get up there 12 months a year?

Ivan Cleary

More than proved himself at the Warriors, he moved over to a Panthers club that was in a complete top to bottom rebuild. Hard to rate him on one season, but as a Panthers fan I can tell you he didn’t do too badly with a lineup that was very, very poor.

Shane Flanagan

Coaching on a budget and doing a very good job of it. he has always had a great reputation in the game, even as an assistant coach, and now some clubs at looking at making him big offers to leave the Sharks. I think that says it all. I don’t expect him to leave though.

Michael Maguire

Another that was highly regarded as an assistant coach. A couple of years in Wigan bought him time to come back and get the right type of job for him, at the South Sydney Rabbitohs. In his first season there he worked wonders with them and turned them into a force.

Anthony Griffin

The every lasting shadow of Wayne Bennett hangs over the club but the performance of Griffin has been a steadying influence that has helped the club move forward. Has done fairly well when you consider that this season many of his side under performed.

Are They Finished?
Tim Sheens

Sheens is easily the most influential coach in the games history. Jack Gibson fans will be horrified, but just have a look at the list of coaches that played or worked with Sheens and who now coach sides of their own. Its almost all of them! Some tough seasons have made people ask questions though and it will be interesting if he gets another coaching job after he leaves the Tigers off field role.

Brian Smith

He has coached some great sides, taken three different clubs to the Grand Final, but the lack of Grand Final winners ring is something he can not shake. Then there is the fact he goes to a new club and they improve immediately, however he always seems to leave with a playing group revolting against him. I don’t think he will coach in the NRL again.

The Jury Is Still Out
John Cartwright

Signed the longest coaching deal in the games history despite having achieved nothing. At times the Titans look alright, while other times they look crap. He has had to deal with working with no money to recruit youngsters though which is a massive handicap.

David Furner

At times his teams look absolutely hopeless. Many times I’ve felt like he should be sacked. The way the Raiders kicked on over the last 6 weeks of their season however made some people hold off on their judgement. Part of me feels like as a coach, he isn’t that good, but he gets by because the Raiders unquestionably have a lot of talent.

Steve Price

In his first season coaching a St George/Illawarra Dragons that had been torn apart by departures, Price didn’t get much out of his team. I doubt that will be helped next season either by the clubs completely non existent recruitment policy. I want to give him more time though and not blame him for what looks like bigger problems at the Dragons at the moment.

Jim Dymock

Was supposed to coach the Bulldogs in 2012 but Des Hasler managed to step in after the Sea Eagles released him. Many at the Bulldogs credit at lot of their success this year to his greater influence though. It would be interesting to see how he would go as a head coach himself, however the Bulldogs value him so much that they have gone out of their way to make sure they retain him over the long term.

Why The Hype?
Ricky Stuart

He won a Grand Final in his first season and lost two more, however it is pretty easy to argue that his success at the Roosters come from the work put in by previous coaches. He went to the Sharks and did nothing at all. In fact, the Sharks needed time to recover from his time there.

Stephen Kearney

An assistant coach under Craig Bellemy, Kearney become a star by coaching the New Zealand Kiwi’s to World Cup success in 2008. He took over the coaching role at the Parramatta Eels and never even came close to looking like he was doing anything decent. On top of that, with Wayne Bennett no longer his “assistant” at international level, the New Zealand test team also started to play worse and worse.

Brian McClennan

Stepped into the Warriors coaching role after the departure of Ivan Cleary. He took a Grand Final juggernaught and turned them into a record breaking embarrassment  He only lasted 24 games, the shorted coaching stint for a full NRL coach.

Matthew Elliott

Destroyed the Canberra Raiders and left them with a losing record. Destroyed the Penrith Panthers and left them with a losing record. Never came close top winning a thing and left both clubs needing complete rebuilds from the ground up.

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2 thoughts on “Rating Every Top Line Coach In The National Rugby League

  1. I’ve been thinking today about Kearney. Whilst he worked under Bellamy, I wonder how much ‘coaching’ he got to do. Bellamy strikes me as a guy who has his finger in all the pies, very much running all aspects of the Storm. Maybe it was a case of kearney seeing and helping with things, but not actually learning for himself?

    I think he has qualities that will really help the Broncos…

  2. That might be the case with Bellemy but then again Michael Maguire coached under him and no doubt he is a very good coach.

    Some people are better as assistant coaches as the end of the day. They can do more good there rather than being a head coach.

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