The Roar
The Roar


Son of a “coaching” gun – proof it works

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers in action during the round 19 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Penrith Panthers at Mt Smart Stadium on July 14, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
19th March, 2018

If young untried rugby league players were auctioned off by Inglis or Magic Millions like thoroughbreds, then those lucky enough to be sired by an NRL coach have a walk up start to fetch a sizeable bid and go on to play at the elite level.

The chances of a young footy player making it to NRL level is minute, and to play in a key half position is even more minuscule, yet the NRL currently have a dozen budding halves registered who have the goods, and they all have links by blood to senior NRL coaches.

It is an overwhelming statistic that says in bold print that to play in the NRL’s most demanding position, micromanaging by an NRL-class coach is a huge advantage, and if he happens to be your father the advantage is enhanced.

Growing up and living with your coach could be worth millions to a player.

If current NRL head Coaches Ivan Cleary, Shane Flanagan and Brad Arthur were created as stallion thoroughbreds, they would likely be living now in the luxury surrounds at Arrowfield or Coolmore studs.

Current Wests Tigers head coach Ivan Cleary has mentored his son Nathan, 20, to be the NRL’s leading point scorer for 2017 and become the hot favourite to be the new NSW Blues halfback this year, while Shane Flanagan’s son Kyle (19) was a sensation for the Sharks under 20s team last year, breaking the National Youth Competition point scoring record with 360 points in 26 games, including 140 conversions at an 80 per cent success rate. He also scored 20 tries, 12 try assists and 15 line breaks.

Nathan Cleary

(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

It is a coincidence that the Blues two most promising halfbacks, and sons of head NRL coaches, were also the leading point scorers in the respective competitions?

Remember the Eels coaches kid who beat Jarryd Hayne in a pre-season training run?


His name is Jakob Arthur and he has set tongues wagging in the Harold Matthews competition for under 16s, and you have guessed it, he plays halfback. He faced off last weekend against Kade Dykes, the son of Adam, a brilliant half and nominated for the Sharks team of the half century.

The list goes on!

Maroons coach Kevin Walters must have been proud when his son Billy side stepped living legend Jonathan Thurston to score a try in his recent tribute match with Cam Smith. Billy, like his dad, has exceptional speed and silky balls skills that yielded 21 try assists in the Qld Cup last season.

Guess who was the leading SG Ball player for try assists and line break assists last year?

That would be Cooper Johns, the son of Matty Johns, who has also mentored Cooper Cronk, Brodie Croft and Cameron Munster. Matty’s other son Jack, represented Italy in the RL World Cup recently.

Both Billy Walters and Cooper Johns are listed under the Craig Bellamy stable in Melbourne.

Rooster’s Assistant coach Adrian Lam watched his son Liam represent PNG in the RLWC and score a brilliant solo try. He played last year in the Roosters NYC team with Sean O’Sullivan, yet another goal kicking halfback.

Sean is the son of the Roosters former Recruitment Manager and Dragons coach Peter, and like Adrian, has been promoted to train with the NRL team this year.


Peter O’Sullivan previously was in charge of recruitment at the Melbourne Storm and shared his apartment with a young Cooper Cronk who became close to club ball boy Sean. Fast forward to a pre-season Roosters trial against the Sea Eagles a few weeks ago, and can you imagine how chuffed Sean was when he was given the opportunity to run on and replace his idol Cooper Cronk?

The Roosters have another couple of handy half’s called Ryan (moved to back row) and Dean Matterson, nephews of well-known NRL assistant coach Terry Matterson. Former Rabbitohs halfback and head coach Craig Coleman also has his son Liam feeding the scrum in the NSW Cup for the Panthers.

Who says micromanaging does not create halves?

Our budding halves have a golden opportunity for the last time to watch and learn from the master Jonathan Thurston before he retires.

JT went past Andrew Johns as the highest rated player in my system only after he was coached by Paul Green who actually took him to an even higher level; the great man gave us a reminder of just why he is an immortal in waiting with his phenomenal performance last Friday night against the Broncos.

Most dominant NRL halves have about eight runs a match from around 40 touches. JT had 32 runs from 67 touches last week.

He did everything humanly possible to lift his team to a last-gasp win against the Broncos only to see Scott Bolton collide with the goal post after laying on what would have been his fourth try assist.

What a role model!

Player Dad/Relation Resume
Nathan Cleary Ivan Cleary Wests Tigers Coach
Billy Walters Kevin Walters Broncos Ass Coach, Maroons Coach
Cooper Johns Matt Johns Storm, Knights Halfs coach
Jack Johns Matt Johns Storm, Knights Halfs coach
Kyle Flanagan Shane Flanagan Sharks Coach
Liam Lam Adrian Lam Roosters Ass Coach
Jakob Arthur Brad Arthur Eels Coach
Dean Matterson Terry Matterson (Uncle) NRL Ass Coach
Ryan matterson Terry Matterson (Uncle) NRL Ass Coach
Shaun O’Sullivan Peter O’Sullivan NRL Recruitment, Dragons coach
Liam Coleman Craig Coleman Rabbitoh Coach/Halfback
Kade Dykes Adam Dykes Sharks/Eels Halfback