Written by Joshua Dean
In the world of Rugby League, it is highly likely that the coach of a team has also been a professional player themselves. This is demonstrated in the NRL, where 14 out of the 16 coaches played professional Rugby League as a player.
Some of them were high profile players like Ricky Stewart, whereas some played only a handful of games, like Michael Maguire. Most Assistant coaches also have played professional league.
In the future, there will be the same amount, if not more former players that become head coaches with many current players who have the potential to become NRL coaches in the future.
Here’s a few purely based on their character, leadership and presence on and off the field.
This answer feels like cheating. Cameron Smith seems like the perfect head coach, due to his superb leadership and temperament that he has shown throughout his illustrious career. He has been a shining light in terms of being patient towards the referees and media, which is something a coach, especially in the NRL needs. Smith is just too smart and knows too much about the game for him not to be a coach or an analyst. It is highly possible that Cam wants to get out of the game after such a long career, however I think if he wanted to, he could become a very good head coach in the NRL, if he gets into a good situation.
For some reason, unknown to many, there is only one Kiwi NRL head Coach and two Kiwi NRL assistant coaches. I don’t know if it’s because they just don’t want to pursue coaching or whatever, however I think Benji Marshall would be a great coach. He has the temperament and easy going nature to be a calming influence on a team. However, I also think he could deliver a major spray if necessary at halftime. Benji could be the next Kiwi to become an NRL head coach, because he has the mental and people skills to do it.
When I look at the best coaches in all sports, it is the ones that put their own personal success and selfishness away so their team can succeed. Boyd Cordner, the player, is one of the most hard working and unselfish rugby league players there is. He would be a great coach, putting his players first and making sure they are enjoying their footy. His leadership skills in the past few seasons have shone through, for the Roosters, New South Wales and Australia.
If you had to describe James Maloney to a person totally new to Rugby League, many would say he is a player who has always found success, winning wherever he decides to play. His efforts with the struggling Warriors, the Roosters, Cronulla, NSW and to a lesser extent Penrith, showed his professionalism and influence he could have on players around him. We could definitely see James Maloney being an assistant coach for an NRL side in a couple of years time after his spell in France. He will probably win a premiership there too, because that’s what James Maloney does, win.
Jarrod Croker is one of the most underrated players of all time. His leadership and calm nature throughout his tenure as Canberra Raiders captain in treacherous times at the club has been remarkable. When his own coach Ricky Stuart is complaining about the refs to the press after games, Croker stays calm and chooses to make sure he inspires his players to be better. He always makes the smart plays on the field, never a dumb one. It would not be surprising at all if Jarrod Croker became a coach for the Raiders at some stage in his life.
Most of the time, the best players are not the best coaches tho and it is highly possible that a player that has only played a handful of games turns out to a much better coach than the ones listed above. A guy that has played 13 games may be the next Wayne Bennett, it is impossible to know.
But hey, that’s what makes Rugby League so interesting!