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The Roar


The NRL should ban fit coaches

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8th August, 2019

Every NRL podcast worth its salt at one point receives a listener question along the lines of “which NRL coach wins in a fight…”.

Take a look through the list of coaches and the skin-fold measures are impressive. They’re fit and disciplined across the generations, from the old-stagers Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy to John ‘looks like he could still pull on the boots’ Morris.

This fitness comes from an understandable place. If a coach is asking his players to sacrifice – to make that extra effort – the message is much more palatable coming from someone who walks the talk. Nothing builds respect for a coach among the players, so the theory goes, like seeing him suffer along with his charges.

But what if this wasn’t the norm? And what could we stand to gain?

People often complain of uniformity in the NRL. Who is more likely to bring out-of-the-box approaches: a coach intent on maintaining high levels of fitness? Or a thinker, for whom physical exercise is optional?

The previous master coaches had paunches: Jack Gibson, Roy Masters, Warren Ryan. They didn’t need to maintain a playing weight, because they were coaching.


Then Bennett came along, challenging his players to stay with him on road runs. Suddenly there was a new avenue for extracting extra motivation and performance from rugby league teams.

But have we gone too far? Has the fit coach archetype left the code poorer?

Is there a correlation between a coach’s BMI and his team’s number of offloads?

Two recent substantial figures are Phil Gould and Mal Meninga. Though neither have coached week-in, week-out in recent years, they both have remarkable records, particularly at Origin level. Does the rep arena favour the big fellas?

Hello, Fatty Vautin.

I suggest an alternative universe. The next head coaching job that emerges, can we go with one showing off a Dad bod? Could it lead to more *cough* eyes-up footy? Could it bring the crowds back? Could it solve the officiating problem?

No, of course it won’t, that’s ridiculous.

But if we do put a different expectation on what coaches can be, maybe – just maybe – the competition could be a bit more fun.