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Although statistics never tell the whole story when it comes to judging the success of NRL coaches, they go a long way in giving scope to a coaches ability over a period of time. Does a winning record translate into a successful coach?
Fans often debate which coaches could turn their team around or take an already good team to the next level. Player strength and club resources do have a factor in the ability of an individual to coach but fans are always after the quick fix. This day and age rugby league is business, so statistical performance on the field has a major impact on the lifespan of any NRL coach.
Those regarded as the best coaches in the game hold the representative appointments; headed by Cronulla?s Chris Anderson (Australia), Brisbane?s Wayne Bennett (Queensland), New Zealand?s Daniel Anderson (New Zealand) and the only representative coach without direct control over an NRL team ? Phil Gould who coaches the NSW Blues. While Parramatta coach Brian Smith and North Queensland?s Graham Murray hold the Country and City posts respectively.
But can statistics back up these appointments?
Here are the best coaches statistically, after Round 16 this season. (Note: Games include any representative games in 2003.)
Wayne BENNETT Brisbane Broncos Games 414, 277 wins, 127 losses, 10 draws. Winning Percentage 66.9% Premierships: Five Finals: Thirteen (incl. five Grand Finals)
Ricky STUART Sydney Roosters Games 43, 28 wins, 14 losses, 1 draw. Winning Percentage 65.1% Premierships: One Finals: One (incl. one Grand Final)
Michael HAGAN Newcastle Knights Games 70, 45 wins, 24 losses, 1 draw. Winning Percentage 64.2% Premierships: One Finals: Two (incl. one Grand Final)
Steve FOLKES Canterbury Bulldogs Games 149, 89 wins, 54 losses, 6 draws. Winning Percentage 59.7% Premierships: Nil Finals: Three (incl. one Grand Final)
Chris ANDERSON Cronulla Sharks Games 311, 184 wins, 121 losses, 6 draws. Winning Percentage 59.1% Premierships: Two Finals: Eight (incl. three Grand Finals)
Daniel ANDERSON New Zealand Warriors Games 69, 40 wins, 27 losses, 2 draws. Winning Percentage 57.9% Premierships: Nil Finals: Two (incl. one Grand Final)
John LANG Penrith Panthers Games 236, 136 wins, 95 losses, 5 draws. Winning Percentage 57.6% Premierships: Nil Finals: Six (incl. one Grand Final)
Craig BELLAMY Melbourne Storm Games 15, 8 wins, 7 losses, 0 draws. Winning Percentage 53.3% Premierships: Nil Finals: Nil
Brian SMITH Parramatta Eels Games 391, 205 wins, 176 losses, 10 draws. Winning Percentage 52.4% Premierships: Nil Finals: Nine (incl. 3 Grand Finals)
Matthew ELLIOTT Canberra Raiders Games 39, 20 wins, 18 losses, 1 draw. Winning Percentage 51.2% Premierships: Nil Finals: One
Tim SHEENS Wests Tigers Games 435, 222 wins, 202 losses, 11 draws. Winning Percentage 51.0% Premierships: Three Finals: Nine (incl. four Grand Finals)
Graham MURRAY North Queensland Cowboys Games 207, 104 wins, 97 losses, 6 draws. Winning Percentage 50.2% Premierships: Nil Finals: Three (incl. one Grand Final)
Nathan BROWN St.George-Illawarra Dragons Games 14, 7 wins, 7 losses, 0 draws. Winning Percentage 50% Premierships: Nil Finals: Nil
Peter SHARP Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Games 107, 45 wins, 60 losses, 3 draws. Winning Percentage 42% Premierships: Nil Finals: Nil
Paul LANGMACK South Sydney Rabbitohs Games 15, 2 wins, 13 losses, 0 draws. Winning Percentage 13.3% Premierships: Nil Finals: Nil
The most striking statistic above is that apart from outgoing Manly coach Peter Sharp and embattled Rabbitohs mentor Paul Langmack, NO OTHER NRL coach has a losing record.
2003 has a pair of rookie coaches in Melbourne?s Craig Bellamy and St.George-Illawarra?s Nathan Brown, both of which in their limited first grade experience remain out of the losing spectrum.
Wayne Bennett?s longevity is remarkable, since starting out with the Canberra Raiders in 1987, he has made the finals an astonishing thirteen times. With the Broncos leading the competition that will become fourteen. Also he has won five of the six Grand Finals he has contested, and has yet to lose one with the Broncos.
Tim Sheens still sports a strong record despite the dearth of victories while in charge at the Cowboys and now the Tigers. He was a major part of the Raiders dynasty of the late 80?s and early 90?s. Sheens has also coached the most games some twenty-one more than Bennett has.
Six of the fifteen coaches have been at the helm for over 200 first grade games.
Between all the coaches 12 Premierships have been won, 21 Grand Finals contested and a total of 57 Finals Series reached.
With the creation of the golden point, Bellamy, Brown and Langmack may never register a draw on their records.
The average winning percentage between the 15 coaches is 52.9%.
So, who is the best coach?
Hard to go past Bennett, his record and longevity speak for themselves. Bennett is among the dinosaurs of the coaching profession but he continues to develop high-end talent with the Broncos while maintaining a winning club. He looks set to add to his Premiership successes in the coming seasons with an explosive Brisbane team.