There is no doubt about it – I would not want to be a coach in the NRL.
The inspiration for this story came after I worked out that Newcastle and Wayne Bennett have only won 2 from 13 games this season. Despite this woeful start to the season, very little is saying about Bennett’s ability to coach and instead the focus has been on the off field dramas which the Newcastle Knights are going through.
The role of a coach in modern day NRL is certainly not an easy job. Coaches are not only responsible for team tactics and ensuring that the players understand their roles on the field, but they are also people managers and must work hard to maintain the harmony within their team. This all coupled with recruitment and management decisions is a heavy load for one individual to carry.
I must say I feel sorry for coaches. Mostly because I feel that they are often used as a convenient scapegoat when a team is not performing and are often forgotten when a team is playing well, unless they are dubbed a ‘supercoach’ like Des Hasler, Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy.
Take the Dragons for example – who again have had coaching dramas this year, with Steve Price sacked as coach in May for the remainder of the NRL season. At this stage, it looks like the Dragons will miss the Finals for the third year in a row. This is the first time this has happened since the club merger in 1999.
The other club which is having drama in respect of their coach this year is the Raiders. However, criticism of Stuart largely stems from the lack of success that he has had at his previous clubs which have included the Sharks and the Eels. The Raiders are another club which has had a woeful start to the season.
The question then becomes, for each of the teams mentioned above, how much of the form of these teams can be attributed to the coach? While the coach certainly needs to be accountable, so do all the other people who are involved in the NRL side including management and the players. The coach is only able to do so much – in the end, it is the players on the field who must work hard to carry out the coaches instructions and must do the basic things required of an NRL team like catching the ball, playing with discipline and making tackles.
To use an analogy I am more familiar with, Parramatta is certainly a club which has also used coaches as scapegoats in the past.
Since 2009, Parramatta have had 4 changes in coaching staff. Daniel Anderson was removed mid-way through 2010, despite him taking the Eels to a Grand Final in 2009 and Stephen Kearney was removed last year following the Eels woeful form under him for 2 years.
I must say, as an Eels fan, I felt tremendously sorry for both these men.
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