WIZ: Why would you want to be a coach in the NRL?
Sea Eagles head coach Geoff Toovey. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
What a year it’s been for NRL coaches. Steve Kearney sacked; Brian McLennan all but gone from the Warriors; Dave Furner has been under pressure for the past three years or so; and Brian Smith is out of favour with some of his senior players.
It really is a tough gig to take on, not just for yourself but for your family, who come under immense pressure from the media virtually every day of the week.
Some coaches struggle to handle that intensity, which is heightened by the (sometimes unrealistic) expectations of the fans.
That said, a number of coaches deserve the heat they’re currently facing.
I was at the Roosters versus Saints match the other week, for instance, and it was noticeable that many of the Roosters fans went to the ground actually expecting their team to lose.
And it’s not hard to see why.
The team looks so disorganized, and they’re lacking ideas and direction from their halves. Apparently, Mitchell Pearce is at loggerheads with Smith, which probably goes a long way to explaining the way the side has performed this season.
Have you noticed how the most successful NRL coaches never have their dirty laundry aired by players or officials?
The players at these clubs just know that the coach is in control.
Every club has issues. But it comes down to how you treat the players. After all, they’re the ones who take the field every week.
Consistently successful coaches – such as Craig Bellamy, Des Hasler and Wayne Bennett – command respect. They’ve gotten to the point where, through hard work and determination, their senior players now believe in anything they do or say.
And if players don’t buy into their approach, they’re generally discarded.
Bellamy has gotten rid of a lot of players over the years. So has Hasler.
At the same time, they have a good eye for new additions to the squad that other coaches mightn’t have spotted. Look at guys like Brian Norrie and Jason Ryles at the Storm, or Krisnan Inu and Sam Perrett at the Bulldogs.
Bellamy and Hasler have that unique ability to get the best out of players like this. And the players themselves know that they have a very specific role to play on the field, so they don’t have to worry about anything else except their own game.
Wayne Bennett has earned the respect of his players over a very successful 20 years or so. It’s very hard to consistently win games of football, so when you do it more often than not, you tend to get the support of the players – regardless of which club you’re at.
Geoff Toovey entered this season as one of the coaches under the most pressure: he inherited a team that had won the grand final and he had a number of key players coming off contract.
He was a first time head coach under immense scrutiny.
Combine that with the fact he’s only had his best side on the field for a few games this season and you get a real appreciation for what a superb job he’s done so far.
The story is very different for those coaches whose sides are at the bottom of the ladder. They face an uncertain future, and rightly so.
Yup, who would want to be an NRL coach these days?
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.