The current NRL head coaches all have had a varying level of success throughout their time in the league. Some have coached over 400 games and have won numerous NRL Premierships, and some have coached less than 50 games.
I will be looking at each of the current head coaches and ranking them based on their NRL win percentage. This is the fairest way to view their success.
However, in deciding to make it fair, the coaches that have taken charge of less than 50 NRL games have been separated from the others.
1. Craig Bellamy – Melbourne Storm (472 Games, 327 Wins, 69.3%)
Topping our list is Craig Bellamy. He is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in NRL history, and since taking over Melbourne in 2003, he has yet to coach a losing season with the club. The only year in which they haven’t made the Finals under Bellamy was in 2010 when the club finished 16th due to long-term salary cap breaches. Bellamy has won three* Premierships in his time with the club and will go into 2021 as reigning Premiers.
*Bellamy has won five Grand Finals with the Storm, but victories in 2007 and 2009 were rescinded due to gross salary-cap breaches.
2. Trent Robinson – Sydney Roosters (207 Games, 134 Wins, 64.7%)
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson is next on our list with a 64.7% win rate. After starting his career as a head coach in the Super League with Catalans, Robinson took over the leading role at the Roosters in 2013. In his first season, Robinson became only the sixth coach to win a Premiership as a rookie. Since then, Robinson and the Roosters have added another two Premierships to their collection after back-to-back title wins in 2018 and 2019.
3. Wayne Bennett – South Sydney Rabbitohs (861 Games, 533 Wins, 61.9%)
Highly-regarded as the best of the best, Wayne Bennett is unlucky to find himself third on our list. A win percentage of 61.9% is staggering considering he has coached over 800 NRL games. Nobody else in the league even comes close to that tally. Just one year after starting his head coaching career with the Raiders in 1987, Bennett became the inaugural coach of Brisbane in 1988. He won a massive six Premierships with the Broncos and added another with the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2010. The 71-year-old has won more NRL titles than any other coach and will look to add an eighth in 2021 with the Rabbitohs.
4. Des Hasler – Manly Sea-Eagles (407 Games, 232 Wins, 57%)
Next up, with a win percentage of 57%, is Manly Sea Eagles boss, Des Hasler. Hasler was appointed the head coach of the Sea Eagles in 2004 and led Manly to a record-breaking 40-0 Grand Final victory in 2008. He notched up another Premiership win in 2011 before being hired by the Canterbury Bulldogs prior to the 2012 season. After a turbulent stint with the Bulldogs, Hasler returned to the Sea Eagles and is now in search of his third Premiership with the club.
5. Anthony Griffin – St George Illawarra Dragons (173 Games, 96 Wins, 55.5%)
Having enjoyed spells at both the Broncos and the Panthers, Griffin has now found himself in the top job at the Dragons. Griffin ended both his previous coaching stints with over 50% win rates, but will have his work cut out for him with the struggling Dragons in 2021.
6. Michael Maguire – Wests Tigers (197 Games, 103 Wins, 52.3%)
After learning his trade under the tutelage of Craig Bellamy and a stint in Super League, Maguire took over the head coaching role at South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2012. In 2014, Maguire ended the Rabbitohs’ 43-year wait for a title when they defeated the Canterbury Bulldogs in the Grand Final and brought the club their 21st Premiership. Now in his third year in charge of Wests Tigers, Maguire will aim to guide the club to their first Finals series in 10 years.
7. Ricky Stuart – Canberra Raiders (418 Games, 211 Wins, 50.5%)
Next on the list is fan-favourite Ricky Stuart. Stuart started his coaching career at the Roosters in 2002 and was able to guide the club to a Premiership victory in his rookie season. From 2002-2004, Stuart took the club to three consecutive Grand Finals in his first three years. After less than successful stints with the Cronulla Sharks and Parramatta Eels, the Aussie found himself at his beloved Raiders in 2014. Since then, the 54-year-old has turned the side into one of the most consistent in the league, and led the club to their first NRL Grand Final in 25 years, narrowly losing to the Roosters in the decider.
8. Brad Arthur – Parramatta Eels (176 Games, 88 Wins, 50%)
In 8th place is Eels boss, Brad Arthur. Arthur took over the Eels in 2014, and after missing out on the finals in his first three seasons with the club, led the team to their first finals series in eight seasons in 2017. After a terrible season in 2018 that saw the club finish 16th, Arthur has guided the Eels to back-to-back finals series, though they have yet to make an appearance in the NRL Grand Final during his reign. Arthur is contracted to Parramatta for another season as he aims to end the club’s 35-year wait for a Premiership.
9. Ivan Cleary – Penrith Panthers (342 Games, 170 Wins, 49.7%)
In ninth is last year’s NRL Coach of the Year, Ivan Cleary. In 2006, Cleary took over the head coaching role at the New Zealand Warriors, and in 2011, led the club to only their second Grand Final, though they were comfortably defeated by the Manly Sea Eagles. In his second spell as Panthers head coach, Cleary led the club to the NRL Grand Final off the back of a 17-game unbeaten run. Penrith fought hard in the second half but narrowly fell to the Storm 26-20.
10. Nathan Brown – New Zealand Warriors (245 Games, 104 Wins, 42.4%)
Next up is Warriors new boss Nathan Brown with a win percentage of 42.4%. At just 29, Brown was named the head coach of the Dragons in 2003. In his five years with the club, the Dragons made the Finals three times, but struggled in each Finals series. After successful stints with Huddersfield and St Helens in the Super League, Brown took over Newcastle in 2016. The Knights collected back-to-back wooden spoons in his first two years at the club and, after a more than disappointing spell with the club, Brown left the role in 2019. After a year out of the game in 2020, he is now the head coach of the Warriors for 2021.
11. Trent Barrett – Canterbury Bulldogs (73 Games, 29 Wins, 39.7%)
With a disappointing 39.7% is new Bulldogs man Trent Barrett. Barrett’s only previous head coaching role was with the Sea Eagles between 2016-2018. In 2016, Manly finished 13th on the ladder, missing out on the Finals. The following season, he led the club to a sixth place finish but lost to the Panthers in the first week of the Finals series. A poor season in 2018 saw the club finish 15th and as a result, ended Barrett’s time as head coach. He now finds himself at the Bulldogs, and after a very successful off-season, is looking to turn the Bulldogs’ fortunes around in 2021.
COACHED UNDER 50 GAMES
1. Adam O’Brien – Newcastle Knights (21 Games, 11 Wins, 52.4%)
The first of five current NRL coaches who have coached less than 50 NRL games is Knights boss Adam O’Brien. After spending time as assistant coach for both Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson, O’Brien took over as head coach of Newcastle in 2020 on a three-year contract. In his first season in 2020, the Knights finished in ninth place, a big improvement on previous seasons, leading to a contract extension for O’Brien under the end of 2024.
2. John Morris – Cronulla Sharks (46 Games, 22 Wins, 47.8%)
With only 46 games under his belt as an NRL head coach, Morris has 22 wins and a win percentage of 47.8%. The 40-year-old has coached the Cronulla Sharks for two seasons and has led the club to the Finals in both years. Morris will hope to make it three from three in the upcoming season.
3. Justin Holbrook – Gold Coast Titans (20 Games, 9 Wins, 45%)
With only 20 games under his belt is Titans man Justin Holbrook. Holbrook took over the Titans prior to the 2020 season after a successful spell with St Helens in the Super League. In round four of last season, Holbrook led the club to their first win in 364 days, and ended the season winning five consecutive games. Holbrook will hope to continue that form as the club strives for a Finals appearance.
4. Todd Payten – North Queensland Cowboys (14 Games, 6 Wins, 42.9%)
New North Queensland boss Todd Payten has only 14 games worth of experience in the NRL after he was named as the interim head coach of the Warriors last season. The Warriors understandably struggled to find consistency throughout the 2020 season, but managed to notch up six wins under Payten. The 42-year-old was offered the vacant Warriors position but instead opted for the Cowboys for 2021.
5. Kevin Walters – Brisbane Broncos (0 Games, 0 Wins, 0%)
Finally, last on our list is Brisbane head coach Kevin Walters. Walters has no NRL experience and is yet to coach a single game in the league. He has had previous head coaching roles with Catalans and Queensland, and will hope to bring the Broncos back to their former glory after the club earned their first-ever wooden spoon last season.