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4 days ago
Not that many seasons ago, NRL clubs were obsessed with signing rookie coaches. Like the burgeoning property market at the time, clubs seemed to feel that the best asset is new and were willing to fight tooth and nail to get their man. The argument at the time was the NRL had become a younger mans game and coaches who were a little closer to their playing days could best exploit their experience to win games.
Of course this logic implied that older coaches had lost touch and needed to be put out to pasture. Coaches such as Graham Murray, Michael Hagan and John Lang were subsequently let go.
Of the young coaches recruited some have survived (Ivan Cleary, David Furner, John Cartwright and to a lesser degree Nathan Brown), but many were sacked without being given much of a chance (just ask Brad Fittler and Jason Taylor).
Times, however, seem to have changed and I for one am pleased to see a shift in focus. After a shaky start, John Lang's Rabbitohs are winning games and playing entertaining football. Lang had every right to assume his head coaching career was over and, had a Kung Fu incident not occurred, he may still have been in the lower ranks at Souths this year.
Lang has however proven the value of older coaches, not just as assistant coaches or consultants, but as leaders of a club. Little doubt that Lang has brought composure to the club after their patchy first round loss. Beau Champion told the media this that Lang has made a difference this year because he believes in his players, backing them when others doubted their abilities. This is surely something an inconsistent club like Souths have needed in the past few years.
But it's not just Lang who has been doing it for the oldies. The respective talents of Wayne Bennett and Tim Sheens have shone in the past few seasons. Brian Smith was headhunted by the Roosters this year to replace a young coach in Fittler and is also performing well.
So where do NRL clubs go from here? Well with several of the most experienced NRL coaches already committed to clubs for the next few seasons, most clubs looking for a new coach (and it will happen) would have little choice but to sign a less experienced coach. There are however still some old coaches who would be still willing to have a crack at a head coaching position. Graham Murray for one is a coach with a great track record and time on his hands.
If the trends are correct then maybe Murray's the man to turn any lowly performing team around.