There aren’t many who would envy the pressure of being one of the 17 NRL coaches.
It is obviously a goal of many rugby league systems, but the rare extreme successes are generally canceled out by the harsh losses and immense stress of intense public scrutiny.
At the start of the 2024 season, three of them will embark on a new journey, with NRL premiership-winning coaches Des Hasler and Shane Flanagan taking the reins at struggling franchises. As Tigers legend Benji Marshall steps out of Tim Sheens’ shadow to lead the Wests into a new era.
Because it is a results-driven league, the pressure on new NRL coaches is very different to experienced ones and patience tends to be much lower.
Making matters worse, some clubs are in the midst of a frustrating decade-long finals drought, while others are looking to continue their league dominance.
So we’ve compiled the active coaching list of all 17 NRL coaches to see how long each of them has been at the helm.
Longest tenures among NRL coaches
Professional sports is a tough business and when teams underperform, coaches are often the first to come under scrutiny.
Here’s an updated look at the state of play in the National Rugby League, as we’ve also been running this exercise in the AFL.
Craig Bellamy (Melbourne Storm)
To coach in your 22nd season in the NRL, you need to be an absolute star. And that’s exactly what Craig Bellamy is.
An incredible 20 finals appearances in 21 seasons at the helm, with seven minor premierships and five* premierships.
*In 2007 and 2009, Melbourne was stripped of premierships for salary cap breaches
Trent Robinson (Sydney Roosters)
Trent Robinson is considered one of the best NRL coaches in the league and has won three premierships and three minor premierships in his 11 seasons in the NRL.
Brad Arthur (Parramatta Eels)
Brad Arthur oversaw a wooden spoon and a great final appearance, showing that being one of the league’s 17 NRL coaches can be a rollercoaster ride.
Ricky Stuart (Canberra Raiders)
Canberra’s favorite son Ricky Stuart has been at the helm of his beloved Raiders for over a decade, leading them to five finals appearances, including the 2019 grand final.
Ivan Cleary (Penrith Panthers)
Six years. Four grand finals. Three premierships. It was probably the best team and coaching streak of all time, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Adam O’Brien (Newcastle Knights)
O’Brien almost got the ax in mid-2023 and showed his coaching potential when he promoted star Kalyn Ponga back to full-back and helped the Knights get to the second round of the finals.
Todd Payten (North Queensland Cowboys)
Payten’s results with the Cowboys were mixed, winning exactly 50% of his games and leading the team to a preliminary final in 2022.
Kevin Walters (Brisbane Broncos)
There were doubts about Kevvie Walters’ coaching training. at times even from his own playersbut there is no longer any doubt that he is among the best NRL coaches after leading the Broncos to the 2023 grand final.
Craig Fitzgibbon (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
Fitzgibbon is yet to taste a finals win as head coach, but he has changed Cronulla’s fortunes in his three seasons at the club – two finals appearances and one key signing.
Jason Demetriou (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
After a 2023 campaign he would like to put behind him, Demetriou has been solid at South Sydney during his two years at the helm, having previously been Wayne Bennett’s understudy for three years.
Wayne Bennett (Dolphins)
Definitely not a trainer with two years of experience. Bennett enters his 37th year as one of the NRL’s finest coaches with one of the greatest CVs of all time. 2024 is supposed to be his last year – but how many times have we heard that?
Andrew Webster (New Zealand Warriors)
What an incredible first season for Andrew Webster with the Warriors as he continued to shock the competition and make it to the preliminary final against Brisbane. Could they do even better in 2024?
Cameron Ciraldo (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
There’s no denying that Ciraldo can coach, but injuries to his roster in 2023 have kept us from seeing the Bulldogs’ potential. With the addition of three-time Premier League winner Stephen Crichton, this could be the missing piece to end their seven-year finals drought.
Anthony Seibold (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)
Now onto his third head coaching role in the NRL; Seibold’s first year at Manly didn’t quite go to plan, as star full-back Tom Trbojevic’s injury threatened the season and the Sea Eagles finished in 12th place.
Shane Flanagan (St George-Illawarra Dragons)
It has taken Flanagan five years to land a top job in the NRL and the Dragons are now his new home. Flanagan is desperate to turn around his current poor form and brings Premier League-winning knowledge to the club.
Des Hasler (Gold Coast Titans)
A former Premier League winning coach, Hasler has taken over a young Titans side with plenty of potential that needs an experienced leader like him at the helm.
Benji Marshall (West Tigers)
He was supposed to spend two years as Tim Sheens’ assistant, but after a dramatic 2023, Marshall will be tasked with leading the Tigers out of their back-to-back wooden spoon era.