Winning the treble is now the pinnacle of British Rugby League. In fact, only three coaches have master-minded treble-winning seasons in Super League.
In 2003, the first treble was secured by Brian Noble and in 2015 Brian McDermott became the most recent coach to achieve the feat. But between the two was perhaps the most dominant treble-winning side – St Helens’ class of 2006. They were coached by Daniel Anderson. He was Super League’s top coach while on these shores, but very few know what he’s doing now.
Anderson took over at Knowsley Road in 2005 after time in charge of the New Zealand Warriors and the New Zealand Kiwis. He arrived with a superb reputation having guided the Warriors to their first NRL Grand Final, as well as two other finals appearances.
In his first season Saints fell short, losing in the Challenge Cup semi-final to Hull before missing out on two chances to make it to the Grand Final with home advantage. All this was put right a year later though as Anderson’s side dominated, amassing 48 points to top the league, with resounding victories at Twickenham and Old Trafford securing the treble. Early the following season they completed the ‘quadruple’ by beating Brisbane Broncos in a classic World Club Challenge.
Saints marched on in 2007, defending the Challenge Cup, topping the league again and advancing to the Grand Final to face a Leeds team they had defeated two weeks earlier. Seeking consecutive trebles and rugby league history, Anderson’s side saved their worst performance for the biggest game of the season as the Rhinos put them to the sword.
Incredibly 2008 would see history repeat itself as Saints won the Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield yet again, but they froze once more at Old Trafford as Leeds claimed back-to-back titles against the odds. Anderson departed at the end of that season to return to the NRL with Parramatta, leaving behind a superb legacy at Knowsley Road. The Kiwi coach won 9 of the 13 trophies available in his four seasons at St Helens, topping the table every year. He also tasted victory in 57 of his 75 games in charge at the club – the highest win rate of any coach in the club’s history.
Having taken the reins at Parramatta, Anderson continued to show his top class coaching ability as he guided them to an unlikely Grand Final appearance in 2009. This was after they had been written off after 18 rounds. In fact the bookies even had them 150/1 to win the NRL as the Finals approached. After an 8th placed finish, victories against Minor Premiers St George Illawarra, Gold Coast Titans and the Canterbury Bulldogs took them to the decider. However, a tightly fought Grand Final went the way of Melbourne Storm.
2010 was a much less fruitful season for Anderson and his Eels. They only managed 10 wins during the campaign, finishing 12th. Then in September 2010 his contract was terminated. Many wondered why but a report into his dismissal years later would reveal the issues behind the scenes. According to this report there were problems between the players, staff and Anderson himself building to a difficult environment.
He would then fail to pick up a new position as a head coach, perhaps down to the issues towards the end of his tenure at Parramatta. He did spend time as NRL Referees elite performance manager and coached the Exiles against England in 2012.
In 2013, he was given a second chance at Parramatta in a new role. He became general manager of football operations. However, he failed to spark the success he had in his previous stint at the club. The Eels failed to make the top eight in 2014 and 2015 but that was the least of their problems. In 2016, it was discovered that Parramatta had been rorting the salary cap system paying players more than was officially disclosed. That culminated in Anderson’s de-registration by the NRL along with other senior club officials and his contract with the Eels was subsequently terminated.
Naturally, his de-registration made it tough for him to take on any sort of role in the NRL meaning his wait to return to the role of head coach and add to his success persisted. No Super League opportunities presented themselves either perhaps due to the scandal that surrounded him.
Eventually, he did find a new home in the NRL.
In 2019 he joined NRL Champions Sydney Roosters in a recruitment role. The club had to convince the NRL to allow Anderson back into the competition. An agreement was reached and he now operates as Sydney’s junior recruitment manager, with the NRL’s most dominant team in recent years looking to continue their success into the future under the direction of the former Saints coach. In Anderson’s first year the club defended their NRL title and he returned to St Helens with the Roosters for the 2020 World Club Challenge, which the Australian side won 20-12.
“The footy was great, I had a fantastic squad and still hear from some of those guys every now and then." Roosters Daniel Anderson talks about his time coaching at Official St.Helens RLFC 🐓 https://t.co/5WgBANDXZV
— Sydney Roosters 🐓 (@sydneyroosters) February 5, 2020
Despite a little bit of media exposure ahead of last year’s game, Anderson’s role and involvement at the Roosters remains away from the limelight. Whether we’ll ever see him step into the front line again remains to be seen. His reputation is undoubtedly tarnished down under but in England, and especially at St Helens, Anderson is widely regarded as one of the best coaches to have set foot on these shores.