Steve Deane: NRL supercoaches thin on the ground

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Craig Bellamy. Photo / Getty Images
Craig Bellamy. Photo / Getty Images

If the Warriors are indeed chasing a supercoach, the list the club is working off could be scribbled on the back of matchbox. Or maybe a rolled-out chewing gum wrapper.

Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bennett, Des Hasler. That's it.

Add in Tim Sheens if they're after a coach who has won a premiership and is still active at the highest level. And delete Bellamy. He may have led the Storm to grand final successes in 2007 and 2009, but those titles have been erased, so technically Bellamy is yet to win anything.

The fact is all 3 of those supercoaches come with baggage. Some carry more than others, but all would benefit from a good-sized team of sherpas to help them across the Tasman.

Widely believed to be the club's prime target, Bellamy has undoubted skill as man manager and tactician but would come with the most caveats.

His Sergeant Shultz defence over the systematic, entrenched salary cap cheating at the Storm on his watch seems to have played quite well in Australia.

Few seem to have questioned whether he could really have known nothing as his club hoarded far more than its fair share of the game's talent over a four-year span. Even those who might be inclined to question the plausibility of that scenario seem happy to brush it off with the justification that most clubs will have fudged the cap at one time or another.

A glut of fairly hideous wrestling allegations is the other major stain Bellamy will struggle to fully erase. The origin of the grapples, crushers, chicken wings and rolling pins that defile the modern game often seem to be traced back to the Storm. Some of that is down to gamesmanship from other coaches keen to see a rival penalised while they happily indulge in the same sort of unpleasantness, however the Storm's judicial record is there in black and white.

Bellamy is clearly a winner, but at what price does his success come?

The Warriors may end up forking out more than a handsome chunk of Owen Glenn's cash if they are successful in luring the man nicknamed Bellyache out of his Melbourne stronghold.

Bennett's sublime record, by contrast, is unimpeachable. There's not an asterisk next to any of his seven premierships. Bennett won't come to Auckland. He doesn't need to. But if he did it would be a public relations nightmare. The famously gruff guru is about as likely to help promote the code in a rugby-dominated country as serve as a guest judge on Dancing With the Stars.

His 21 years at Brisbane may have been littered with titles, but for Queensland journalists praying for the odd usable quote or a regular audience with players, the Bennett years were a nuclear winter. To be truly successful the Warriors need not only to win and be admired, they need to be loved. Lovable ain't a word likely to precede Bennett's name any time soon.

With a highly effective salary cap and a brutal schedule that magnifies any swing in fortune, sustained NRL success is highly unlikely. Des Hasler is the only other coach who can claim to have achieved it. He restored Manly as a powerhouse and has transformed the Bulldogs from a rabble into a contender in the blink of an eye.

Hasler may have the magic dust, but he also seems fond of the crazy juice.

He comes across as volatile and unpredictable, although those traits don't flow through to his teams. Predicated upon an Us v The World mentality - personified by the 100-year war with the NRL over Brett Stewart - his schtick is highly effective.

Hasler's headline-grabbing antics and tough brand of footy would be a great fit in Auckland, but he won't come here either. Having walked out on Manly, his reputation simply couldn't afford another early exit.

Sheens sits on a tier all of his own, just below the big three.

The only other active NRL coach with a title to his credit (three with Canberra and one with Wests Tigers), Sheens has a winning personality to go with a decent track record.

Recent years have been lean, however. Sheens' teams have made the finals in just three of the last 14 seasons, and that number may not improve this year. The flipside of that is that Sheens may become available.

There is a question, however, as to whether his methodology is right for the Warriors. His sides play wonderful attacking football but aren't known for staunch defence - we've seen how that worked out in Auckland this season.

Splashing the cash to bring a supercoach to town simply might not be possible. Considering the contenders, it's also far from certain it's even desirable.

The only thing certain is that Bellamy, Bennett or even Sheens - whatever their baggage - would be an easier sell to a restless fanbase than another coach without a record of success at NRL level.

- NZ Herald

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