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Bennett and "underlings" rule NRL

By David Beniuk 15/04/2011 06:40:25 PM Comments (0)

Newcastle will have Wayne Bennett, but no fewer than five other NRL clubs will benefit from the master coach's legacy when season 2012 kicks off.

As well as the Knights, rival clubs Melbourne, Brisbane, Parramatta, South Sydney and St George Illawarra will all to some degree bear Bennett's fingerprints.

The Storm's Craig Bellamy, the Broncos' Anthony Griffin and the Dragons' Steve Price have all worked under the seven-time premiership winner.

The Eels' Stephen Kearney has, incredibly, worked above Bennett in the New Zealand set-up.

Likely Rabbitohs boss Michael Maguire, like Kearney a former Bellamy assistant at the Storm, is a generation removed but at 37 ensures the lineage will be long lived.

More Bennett proteges could be on the way too - former Broncos stars Kevin Walters and Allan Langer are assistants and league legend Darren Lockyer has declared a desire to coach and even looks like he's morphing into a Bennett clone.

The success-breeds-success model is reminiscent of the dynasty that emerged behind Warren Ryan, the former Canterbury mentor who won premierships in the 1980s.

The old school, defence-obsessed taskmaster, who had worked below infamous face-slapping pioneer Roy Masters at Western Suburbs, watched many of his former players take up the coaching reins, with varying levels of success.

Steve Folkes and Michael Hagan won premierships, Mick Potter found success in Europe, while Andrew Farrar, Wayne Pearce, Paul Langmack and Terry Lamb rode the first grade football rollercoaster.

Chris Anderson, who won premierships with the Bulldogs and Melbourne and went on to coach Australia, also played under Ryan but says he deliberately took his coaching in a different direction.

Anderson, who also coached Cronulla and the Sydney Roosters, knows success in ruby league isn't guaranteed by anything, including the supercoaches' "underlings", as he refers to them.

"If a bloke has success, that doesn't necessarily carry on that the bloke underneath is going to," he told AAP this week.

"But they learn some good lessons off these blokes so coaches that have success, if you're around while they're doing that, you're obviously going to take a little bit of that in.

"The big thing is you can't sell it to people how they sell it, you've just got to sell it how you sell it.

"But success breeds success. I come from Canterbury, they knew how to win grand finals. You go to Cronulla, they don't know how to win grand finals and it's a psychological thing there."

Anderson is a fan of the coach that comes from within the club, like Price, Griffin and Kevin Moore at the Bulldogs.

"I think it's good new blokes coming into the game," he said.

"I think St George have done the right thing, bringing a bloke from within.

"He knows the culture, he knows what the club's about.

"I think we need more of this. We need more clubs producing coaches from within the club because they know the culture of the club.

"Kev (Moore) was my ballboy, then I played with him, then I coached him, then I coached with him.

"He's got a long history there.

"He's comfortable there, the club's in a good place, he knows the culture."

While Bennett could never have been accused of shackling his talent-laden Broncos sides, the suffocating style of the Dragons has its critics.

Bellamy's Melbourne play differently but Anderson believes there is too much regimenting of teams - and there will be more with Kearney and Maguire's arrival.

"(Maguire's) an underling so we'll get more of the Melbourne style of footy I dare say," Anderson said.

"It's a big step up for him and a tough job there so I wish him well.

"I'm not a huge fan of the style of footy but I love (Bellamy's) intensity, he knows the game.

"It's a little bit too scripted for me at times.

"You've got to have some script but also within that script you've got to allow players to grow into the positions and display their ability."

Does that make him a fan of Tim Sheens, another coach who has spawned a dynasty that includes NSW coach Ricky Stuart?

Sheens' Tigers are arguably the ad-lib kings of the NRL.

"I think you've got to have some freedom, maybe halfway along the line to Tim," Anderson said.

"I don't know how he does it week in week out, he's not sure what's going to come out that race."

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