The competition’s two best sides will meet in the NRL Grand Final this weekend, and it’s no surprise that they’re led by the two hottest coaches going around.
Des Hasler’s record speaks for itself. Having won two Premierships with the Sea Eagles in an illustrious playing career spanning 16 years and 309 Senior games, he embarked on his coaching career with Manly in 2004, leading them to Premiership wins in 2008 and 2011.
This weekend he becomes the first coach in the history of the game in Australia to lead two different clubs to Grand Finals in consecutive years, having already claimed the Minor Premiership in his first season with the Bulldogs.
Hasler’s key attribute as a coach is his ability to build a tight-knit, cohesive team. Few sides manage to scale the heights of such a tough competition without a star 6 or 7, but Hasler’s game plan revolves not around individual talent in key positions, but on each and every man, from 1 to 17, doing their own jobs.
Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy has fantastic coaching pedigree – having experienced the ecstasy of a Grand Final win as a player with the Canberra Raiders in 1990 he embarked on his coaching career under the tutelage of the legendary Wayne Bennett, and would also have grown immensely as a coach during a tumultuous three-year stint with NSW in the cauldron that is State of Origin.
The Storm has been a consistent feature of the play-offs for much of the last decade, with Sunday’s appearance being their fifth Grand Final date in the last 7 years, a record which includes four consecutive appearances.
Bellamy is the consummate professional. He has timed the Storm’s run to perfection this year, and, along with experienced campaigners like Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, has all the knowledge and tools to deal with the pressures of the season’s biggest game.
His is a simple game plan, which simply asks the bulk of his side to run hard and straight, and make their tackles, inevitably creating opportunities for the ‘big three’ in Storm jerseys to display their freakish skills. I think Melbourne will be too composed for the Bulldogs on Sunday and will snare another title for Victoria, but it’s going to be an enticing and exciting clash whatever happens!