In the space of one hour, the NRL coaching landscape was dramatically altered.
At 6pm on Monday one NRL club was on the market for a new coach.
By 7pm there were reports that number was set to swell to three.
The Canterbury Bulldogs, who parted ways with Trent Barrett on May 17, are now competing with the New Zealand Warriors for a replacement coach after it was revealed Nathan Brown had informed the club he was not willing to relocate to New Zealand in 2023.
Twelve hours later he had been sacked.
They look likely to be joined by the Wests Tigers.
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News Corp journalist Phil Rothfield revealed on NRL360 that following the Tigers’ internal review Maguire will almost certainly coach his last game in Round 14.
Whereas the Bulldogs had the pick of the contenders, now they face opposition from two rivals.
Only last week Bulldogs head of football Phil Gould claimed nobody had applied for the vacant coaching job despite Premiership-winner Shane Flanagan publicly declaring his interest.
Gould may now have to get on the front foot.
What’s more, Monday’s developments could trigger other clubs to consider their options in the fear that the best coaches lying in wait will be snapped up.
While the Titans have been at pains to stress that Justin Holbrook is safe, Gold Coast have been one of the disappointments of the season.
Adam O’Brien’s future, meanwhile, could also be in jeopardy if the Knights don’t turn their season around.
With the coaching merry-go-round now in overdrive foxsports.com.au looks at the state of play of the NRL landscape and who leads the race for a coaching job.
Madge is still an NRL coach, for now. While the Tigers have yet to make a call on his future, it is becoming increasingly likely that his days are numbered.
Despite facing the axe, Maguire would likely be front and centre of both the Warriors’ and Bulldogs’ coaching discussions.
His name has already been thrown up before the latest development with Gould then declaring the Bulldogs job was one for “an experienced man” in May.
Maguire fits that bill, with over 200 games as a head coach in the NRL and a premiership to boot.
In his last two years in the role after being appointed in 2019, Maguire’s Tigers have come under fire and now it seems the end of the road is near.
No one in the rugby league world doubts Maguire’s coaching ability, and he could land at either the Bulldogs or Warriors.
With a strong side at the Rabbitohs, his players were able to excel and his decision to shift Greg Inglis from the centres to fullback was a masterstroke.
But, both Canterbury-Bankstown and New Zealand don’t have the strongest squads, so questions are naturally raised about Maguire’s potential to improve the side after being unable to make a positive change at Leichhardt.
One aspect Maguire certainly excels in is his coaching style.
Maguire takes a ‘tough love’ approach and is a disciplinarian — something the Warriors and Bulldogs have been missing.
Madge only knows one way, train as hard as possible and get as fit as a team can to get the best results.
Both the Warriors and Bulldogs could benefit from that approach, starting off most games strong before fading in the second half.
Another strong factor which could see Maguire join the Warriors is the fact he is the New Zealand head coach.
Many of his international players also ply their trade for the Warriors including Tohu Harris and Shaun Johnson.
After leaving his post at the Bulldogs, Trent Barrett may be a man suited to the Warriors or Tigers role.
Barrett failed to inspire the Bulldogs after recruiting several high-profile players, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to spark a change elsewhere.
Doubts have been raised about Barrett’s future after he walked away from the Sea Eagles in 2018 and then failed to succeed at Belmore.
But a successful stint at the Panthers as attacking coach still sits on his resume and one team has the attacking stocks ready for Barrett to take them to the next level.
The Bulldogs attack seemed clunky and predictable under Barrett, but the lack of flair from their key players could be an influence.
The Warriors on the other hand are known to be a strong attacking team, but lacklustre in defence.
New Zealand powerbrokers may look to Barrett to bring them back to the exciting brand of rugby league they are known for which sparked a grand final appearance in 2011.
The major knock on hiring Barrett is his coaching record, which is not pleasant viewing.
At the Bulldogs, Barrett only won five from 34 games, while at the Sea Eagles, a team with the Trbojevic’s and Daly Cherry-Evans, he won only 29 from 74 – a record which clubs looking for a coach may baulk at.
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Green left the Maroons coaching job after the 2021 series in the hopes of returning to club-land.
That has yet to eventuate but if there was ever a time to score a head coaching role, it is now.
“The basis for this is simple, the QRL wants to ensure that they have certainty around the Origin coach not wanting to pursue an NRL head coach job, and whilst I could give them that certainty for the 2021 series, I cannot guarantee that this would be the case in the future,” Green said following his departure.
“We all understand the dynamics and volatility around NRL club head coach roles and ultimately, that is where I see myself when the right opportunity opens up.”
Green was handed his first head coach role in 2014 with the North Queensland Cowboys, and delivered, leading the side to a premiership over the Broncos in 2015 before departing in 2020.
Green holds the record for the most wins as Cowboys head coach and has coached the most games in North Queensland with 168.
All three NRL clubs will be looking at Paul Green as their next head coach, and he could be just the authoritarian needed to boot them into shape.
Following his Cowboys departure, Green admitted he was “too intense” at times.
But, NRL supremo Phil Gould is an intense figure himself and could want another tough and experienced head to lead the side back to glory.
Green would certainly whip the Bulldogs into shape and be able to teach a team how to win.
His style is to push teams to the limit, and after reflecting on what went wrong with the Cowboys, he could almost be the perfect coach to land in Belmore.
John Morris was thrust into the head coaching job at the Sharks following Shane Flanagan’s deregistration as an NRL coach.
In his first season as coach Morris guided the club to a 7th place finish, losing in the first week of finals to Manly, but as a rookie coach the year could be considered a success.
Morris was then unceremoniously dumped in early 2021 with Craig Fitzgibbon’s impending arrival in 2022.
The Sharks were slammed for the way they conducted Morris’ sacking and the coach was popular within the playing group.
Fans were also shocked to lose one of their own, with the playmaker playing over 100 games for the Sharks.
Morris will be on the lookout for a new head coaching role and now three windows are open.
Although he is currently contracted until the end of the 2023 season with the Rabbitohs as an assistant, Morris could be in line for a return to a head coaching role.
Current Sharks prop Toby Rudolf praised Morris’ work ethic and incredibly smart rugby league brain when he was hired by the Rabbitohs.
“He’s definitely a very smart man with a very smart rugby league mind,” Rudolf said to Sporting News.
“He is a very smart man with the whole game, and I’m not very smart so I can’t really relate. He does get his point across quite clearly and he is probably the hardest worker I’ve met in terms of video and training preparations.”
Nathan Brown’s Warriors clearly lacked direction leading to his departure — and Morris could be the perfect candidate.
With a wealth of talent and a raw squad, the New Zealand side need direction and rugby league smarts.
Morris could provide exactly that.
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Following Barrett’s departure there was intense speculation linking Cameron Ciraldo with the Bulldogs job.
The Panthers defensive coach has enjoyed a successful spell at the foot of the mountain and head coach Ivan Cleary knows his right-hand man’s departure is matter of when, not if.
Ciraldo is widely considered the next NRL coach in waiting, and Fox League’s James Hooper said on NRL360 he believes he is at the top of Phil Gould’s wish list alongside Brad Fittler.
It emerged Ciraldo was in discussions to re-sign with the Panthers but is reportedly waiting for the ‘right job’ to come around should he move into the world of head coaching.
Now he has three clubs to choose from and all will be making a play for him.
Ciraldo is clearly happy to remain at the Panthers and continue to build his sound resume, but if the right offer comes along from one of three clubs seeking a permanent boss, he could make the move sooner rather than later.
The Bulldogs have the cash to table an offer that is hard to turn down but the turmoil at Belmore may put him off.
Ciraldo would, however, get the opportunity to work alongside two of his best students in Matt Burton and Viliame Kikau in 2023, while also working to get the best out of Reed Mahoney.
Ciraldo would be silly to not entertain the Bulldogs’ offer, even if he wants to remain at the Panthers.
The defensive coach is clearly doing wonders at Penrith, with the Panthers conceding the least points through 13 rounds.
Meanwhile, the Warriors, Bulldogs and Tigers sit amongst the bottom five for most conceded.
The current Blues boss has been tight-lipped about his future as a coach.
Phil Gould is said to be in hot pursuit of the former Panthers and Roosters star after a successful stint as New South Wales head coach.
But now the Bulldogs will face stiff competition from the Warriors and Tigers.
Gould’s close relationship with Fittler is said to be a factor in his decision.
Fittler didn’t rule out the possibility of being a head coach in club-land in the future.
“I will never, ever rule out anything,” Fittler told the SMH.
“But right now, had you asked me as a kid to picture what my two best jobs would be, one would be commentating on rugby league, and the other would be coaching Origin. I’m now doing both those jobs.
“There will be nothing done while I’m doing these two jobs.”
Fittler’s current coaching career has been short, but he boasts a strong record with the Blues, winning seven from 12 games in the hotly contested state vs state series.
Phil Gould also recently denied he had discussed the Bulldogs head coach role with candidates, explaining he had given “no thought” to who will be appointed the next coach.
Those claims sparked rumours that Fittler could land at the Bulldogs, with talks put on hold until the end of the Origin series.
“But when it was put to him about coaching Canterbury specifically, he came back with, I have a job at Channel 9 and I have a job with the Blues and that’s it,” Paul Kent said on NRL360.
“He wouldn’t talk beyond that period so are we just waiting until the end of the Origin period before that becomes the conversation? In the past that is often how it has played out.”
But now with two more potential landing spots on the cards, Fittler could have his eye on one specific role.
Phil Gould will certainly have Fittler on speed dial for when the final Origin bell sounds and the Bulldogs are the frontrunners to land ‘Freddy’ should he choose to move into club-land.
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McGregor spent seven years at the Dragons before being let go during the Covid-disrupted 2020 season.
Since then he has been a part of the Eels and Blues coaching staff, having been brought into the two successful sides.
McGregor is an outside chance at landing an NRL head coach role, but his structured style could be an ideal fit for the Warriors, Bulldogs or Tigers.
“Increased simplicity; perfect execution. One defence, one offence, one change up depending on opposition. We worked on clarity and consistency to get our mojo. We would practice and prepare everything through extensive repetition,” McGregor said to Zero Tackle on his coaching philosophy with the Dragons.
That routine and structure could well work at one of the three struggling clubs, who all seem to be lacking in direction.
Josh Hannay took over as interim head coach of the Sharks after John Morris’ shock axing and the Cowboys after Paul Green’s departure.
Hannay is currently assistant coach to Craig Fitzgibbon at the Sharks but is clearly rated within rugby league circles, scoring a job in the Maroons coaching staff alongside Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston.
The former Cowboys and Sharks outside back could be a smokey for a full-time NRL coaching gig.
Much will be made of the 2022 Origin series, and one of the biggest storylines will be if Slater can cut it as a head coach.
The former Storm fullback was handed the Maroons gig as a rookie, with Queensland bosses hoping he can impart his own Origin knowledge and success on the squad.
Few know what it takes to be a successful Queensland and NRL player more than Slater, but if he can lead a team to victory is yet to be seen.
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The Warriors legend has been appointed interim coach of the New Zealand club following Nathan Brown’s departure.
With 261 games under his belt from 1995 to 2005 and then again in 2009, Jones has more than enough experience to lead a team.
He will know be the head coach for the remainder of the 2022 season and depending on how the rest of the year goes, could find himself in the role for the foreseeable future.
The Bulldogs have been able to score more points under Potter who has taken over as interim coach of the Canterbury-Bankstown side since Barrett’s departure.
Potter coaching the Tigers in 2013 and 2014 but failed to reach the finals in either year.
Prior to that spell he enjoyed stints abroad with Catalans, St Helens and Bradford.
Potter has more than enough coaching experience to take over as boss, but it is yet to be seen if he will be appointed long-term.
Nathan Cayless enjoyed a strong career with the Eels spanning from 1997 to 2010 and has since held assistant coaching roles at the Roosters and currently the Tigers.
His playing experience and years as an assistant could hold him in good sted for a full-time job in the future and will likely be the interim coach should Maguire depart the Tigers.
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