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Which clubs have the longest (and shortest) current NRL coaching tenures?

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NRL coaches

You wouldn’t find many that envy the pressure that comes with being one of the 17 NRL coaches.

It’s obviously a goal of many within rugby league systems, but the rare extreme highs are generally canceled out by the tough losses and immense stresses of harsh public scrutiny.

Heading into the 2024 season, three will start a new journey, with premiership winning NRL coaches Des Hasler and Shane Flanagan taking up the mantle at struggling franchises. While Tigers legend Benji Marshall emerges from the shadows of Tim Sheens to lead Wests into a new era.

Given this is a results-based league, pressure on new NRL coaches are vastly different to experienced ones, and levels of patience tend to be much lower.

Adding to the pressure is the fact that some clubs are in the midst of frustrating finals droughts that span over a decade, while others are looking to continue their dominance on the league.

So we’ve put together the list of active coaching tenures across all 17 NRL coaches, to see how long each of them have been at the helm.

NRL coaches
The two 2023 Grand Final coaches, Ivan Cleary (left) and Kevin Walters (right)

The longest tenures amongst NRL coaches

Professional sport is a tough business and when teams aren’t performing, coaches are often the first person to be put firmly under the microscope.

So here’s an updated look at the state of play in the National Rugby League, since we’ve also done this exercise in the AFL.

22 years

Craig Bellamy (Melbourne Storm)

To be coaching into your 22nd season in the NRL you need to be an all-time great. And that is exactly what Craig Bellamy is.

An incredible 20 finals appearances in 21 season at the helm, with seven minor premierships and five* premierships.

*2007 & 2009 premiership were stripped from Melbourne for salary cap breaches

NRL coaches
Storm coach Craig Bellamy stands above the rest | Longest reigns, NRL coaches

12 years

Trent Robinson (Sydney Roosters)

Seen as one of the best NRL coaches in the league, Trent Robinson has won three premierships and three minor premierships in his 11 season in the NRL.

11 years

Brad Arthur (Parramatta Eels)

Brad Arthur has overseen a wooden spoon and a grand final appearance, showing the rollercoaster of a ride it can be being one of the 17 NRL coaches in the league.

Ricky Stuart (Canberra Raiders)

Canberra’s favourite son, Ricky Stuart, has been at the helm of his beloved Raiders for over a decade, taking them to five finals appearances, including the grand final in 2019.

6 years

Ivan Cleary (Penrith Panthers)

Six years. Four grand finals. Three premierships. It’s been arguably the best streak of team and coaching success of all-time that doesn’t seem like slowing down anytime soon.

nrl coaches, ivan cleary
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary

5 years

Adam O’Brien (Newcastle Knights)

Nearly getting the axe midway through 2023, O’Brien showed his coaching potential once shifting star Kalyn Ponga back to fullback, helping the Knights make it to the second round of the finals.

4 years

Todd Payten (North Queensland Cowboys)

It’s been a mixed bag results wise for Payten at the Cowboys, winning exactly 50% of his matches and taking the side to a preliminary final in 2022.

Kevin Walters (Brisbane Broncos)

There’s been doubt about Kevvie Walters’s coaching, even from his own players at times, but there’s no doubt anymore that he belongs amongst the top NRL coaches, after he took the Broncos to the grand final in 2023.

nrl coaches, kevin walters
Broncos coach Kevin Walters

3 years

Craig Fitzgibbon (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)

Fitzgibbon is yet to register a finals win as a head coach, but he has changed Cronulla’s fortunes in his three seasons at the club – 2 finals series appearances and key marquee signing.

Jason Demetriou (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Coming off the back of a 2023 campaign he would want to put behind him, Demetriou has been solid with South Sydney through his two years at the helm after being Wayne Bennett’s understudy for three-years prior.

2 years

Wayne Bennett (Dolphins)

Definitely not a coach with two years experience. Bennett is entering his 37th year as one of the top NRL coaches with one of the greatest resumes ever assembled. 2024 is tipped to be his last — but how many times have we heard that.

dawn of the dolphins

Andrew Webster (New Zealand Warriors)

What an incredible first season for Andrew Webster at the Warriors, shocking the competition time and time again, making it all the way to the preliminary final against Brisbane. Could they do one better in 2024?

Cameron Ciraldo (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

There’s no denying Ciraldo can coach, but injuries to his squad in 2023 stopped us from seeing the Bulldogs potential. With three-time premiership winner, Stephen Crichton, joining the side, could this be the missing piece to ending 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 with Manly didn’t quite go to plan with star fullback Tom Trbojevic’s injury jeopardising the season, landing the Sea Eagles in 12th spot.

First year

Shane Flanagan (St George-Illawarra Dragons)

It has taken five years for Flanagan to find a top job in the NRL, and the Dragons are now his new home. Desperate to change their current poor run of form, Flanagan brings a premiership-winning knowledge to the club.

Des Hasler (Gold Coast Titans)

A former premiership 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 (Wests Tigers)

He was meant to spend two years as an assistant under Tim Sheens but after a dramatic 2023, Marshall will be tasked with leading the Tigers out of their back-to-back wooden spoon era.

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