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Experts' View: Coach of the Year

As well as some great players, the NRL is blessed with some top-shelf coaches.

Some have been around forever and a day while others are still proving themselves.

Among the 16 filling the hot seats in 2021, some have performed better than others.

Playing talent obviously helps, but the top coaches are the ones able to extract every ounce of worth from those they are looking after.

The experts at have their say on who's done the best job in 2021.

Experts' view - Coach of the Year

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

Craig Bellamy has shown that even without Cameron Smith his team can still dominate the game. I thought he wouldn't be able to do it without Smith controlling the game on the field but he has proven me wrong.

Every try from Round 22

Brett Kimmorley (Former Test halfback)

Craig Bellamy. If you've seen more than a few of Melbourne's top-notch performances this year, little explanation is needed. When on song, they are a wonderful team to watch.

Jamie Soward (Premiership winner)

Craig Bellamy. We always look for the biggest improvers for what a coach has done but the top four teams have been kept there by the top four coaches. To be in a position to repeat as champions with everything that is going on shows what a great job Craig has done.

Des predicts more milestones for 'one-club player' DCE

Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers legend)

Des Hasler. The transformation of Manly from the start of the year to now being a premiership threat has been remarkable. Dessie has been at the core of that.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League) 

Trent Robinson has demonstrated once again what an incredible coach he is. Teams are hit by injury all the time, but this year the Roosters lost both their co-captains due to medical retirement and have been without a host of other key players through the year. They're in the top four.

Brad Walter ( senior reporter)

Trent Robinson. The Roosters have been decimated by injuries to some of their best and most experienced players and have a teenage halfback among eight debutants. Despite all that, they remain ultra-competitive.

Paul Suttor ( editor-in-chief)

One of the hardest jobs for a coach is having to drag a team back to the top after coming so close the year before. Ivan Cleary has done tremendously well, despite plenty of injuries in his squad, to put the Panthers back on course for a shot at the title after last year’s winning streak culminated in a grand final defeat.

Maguire pleased Wests Tigers producing and profiting from 'massive moments'

Alicia Newton ( reporter)

Tommy Turbo’s ability to transform Manly has met its praises but Des Hasler needs some recognition for his own coaching turnaround after the side’s dreadful month to start the year. Hasler has turned water into wine with several players including Morgan Harper, Jason Saab, Toafofoa Sipley and Reuben Garrick.

Paul Zalunardo ( senior journalist)

Wayne Bennett. Sure, they've had a couple of shockers, but Bennett has the Rabbitohs building very nicely for a run at the finals. They score tries for fun and their defence is improving as we go along. Who's playing better than them right now?

Martin Lenehan ( senior journalist)

Nathan Brown has done a phenomenal job to have the Warriors anywhere near the top eight after another disrupted season. As Brown told last month he hasn’t heard one player complain about being away from home for so long and that’s a testament to the tight bond he has created.

Zac Bailey ( reporter)

Craig Bellamy’s ability to get the best out of his players and change Melbourne’s playing style is enviable. Remember, they were once the best wrestlers in the game, now they’re the best-attacking team. They’re clear premiership favourites and chasing a record 19th straight win.

Payten impressed by youngsters with his 'eye on the future'

Chris Kennedy ( reporter)

Trent Robinson and Craig Bellamy are well clear of the rest but it has to go to Bellamy. Their injury toll isn’t quite what Roosters have had but it’s still been enormous and in their first year without Cameron Smith they’ve been able to totally redesign their game plan. A stunning achievement.

Dan Walsh ( reporter)

Craig Bellamy. Take Cameron Smith out of any other side and lose Ryan Papenhuyzen for months while other key players also rotate in and out, and the team struggles. Melbourne haven't lost in five months and are gunning for NRL history. Incredible coaching.

Troy Whittaker ( reporter)

After four rounds, Manly hadn’t won a game and questions were raised about Des Hasler’s future. But the shrewd coach didn’t panic and his team are now poised to challenge for the premiership. A fit Tom Trbojevic has helped, but Hasler also deserves immense credit.

Lone Scout ( Fantasy guru)

There’s a great argument for Craig Bellamy, whose Storm side has instantly mastered the game in the new six-again era (and defied a few injuries along the way) but Trent Robinson’s performance in keeping the Roosters inside the top four despite a series of career and season-ending injuries gives him the edge.

Kenny Scott ( podcaster)

Des Hasler. After the opening four rounds, many had Manly battling to avoid the wooden spoon but Des has built a team that plays to its strengths and is now fighting for a top-four finish.


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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.


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