Jason Ryles will take another step in a coaching journey widely expected to land him a future NRL job when he oversees the Storm’s Nines campaign in Perth.
Ryles, who recently announced he would be leaving Melbourne at the end of the season to take up a role under Eddie Jones with England’s world champion rugby union team, has been continually trying to improve his coaching knowledge since the end of his playing days in 2013.
In fact, the former Test front-rower began coaching while still playing for the Storm when he used a weekend off for a representative round bye in his final season to gain experience as Dean Pay’s assistant with the NSW under 20s.
He is now set to be in the unique position of having worked under arguably the best rugby league coach of the last decade in Craig Bellamy and the most successful rugby coach in Jones.
"I have been very fortunate to spend five years with Craig and basically all the foundations of my coaching are from him, and then to see how Eddie does it is another opportunity to get better and get some more experience under my belt," Ryles said.
"Being a senior coach is something I would like to do one day, that’s the ambition, but I understand that those job don’t come up every day and they are quite hard to get.
"I am just happy to do my time and do my apprenticeship under two very good coaches in Craig and Eddie and if any opportunities arise going forward we will see what happens but at the moment I am just focused on the season ahead with the Storm."
The 41-year-old’s final season with Melbourne starts in less than two weeks at the NRL Nines on February 14-15, and Bellamy has handed over the reins to Ryles for the tournament.
Despite Bellamy’s absence, the Storm are taking the NRL Nines seriously and players in line for the trip to Perth trained under Ryles during a camp in Geelong.
"That’s one of the many good things about working with Craig, he lets you do that and he generally lets you do a trial as well so you get a bit of hands-on experience," Ryles said.
The opportunity to join the England Rugby Union coaching staff arose after Ryles and his wife Alana travelled to Japan for the World Cup final.
Ryles had worked with Jones as a contact consultant for the England team since 2016 and developed a close relationship with the former Wallabies mentor, who is a keen league fan and has often tried to employ league tactics into his coaching.
"I have been over there four or five times to do some consulting work, just with contact, and then share any ideas that I had and also vice versa," he said.
"When England made the final I thought it would be a good opportunity to go over to Japan and through Eddie I organised some tickets to watch it with my wife but nothing was spoken about then. It came up later and Eddie was OK to wait until the end of the season.
"I will be working with the forwards in both attack and defence, and I’ll also sit with the ‘D’ coach as much as I can. The fundamentals of the defence are very similar, but there’s no 10 metres and you’ve got a maul to deal with, as well."
Ryles, whose rugby union career consisted of one school game, is regarded as an NRL coaching in waiting and was on an initial short-list of candidates identified by Newcastle officials to replace Nathan Brown this season.
Inside Storm's pre-season camp
An Illawarra junior, there has been speculation he could be the next Dragons coach, while some had predicted he may eventually succeed Bellamy at the Storm.
A rugby union job may also become a possibility for Ryles but for now he insists his sole interest is helping ensure Melbourne are again among the contenders for the Telstra Premiership.
"My mindset going over there is just to add as much as I can to the program in England and look to improve both the players I work with and also myself," Ryles said.
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