The role of a rookie coach is always a tough one. They rarely arrive in settled circumstances given that very few coaches get to select when they depart a club.
A rookie generally gets the gig in a couple of positions. Mostly, they’re taking over following a disastrous campaign that sees a club at the bottom of the table. Others move into the hot seat after a period of mediocrity.
Some get the good fortune of taking over a finals calibre side that has underperformed, while the somewhat lucky few get handed the keys to a very strong team when the previous head coach decides his time is done.
For those rookies taking over a bottom of the table club, think Brad Arthur following Stephen Kearney and Ricky Stuart, or Kevin Walters replacing Anthony Seibold.
Replacing mediocrity was Trent Barrett at the Bulldogs after Dean Pay.
Seibold himself was the beneficiary of a strong South Sydney Rabbitohs side that underperformed in Michael Maguire’s final season.
Craig Fitzgibbon moves into the head coaching role at Cronulla after an unstable 2021 season that saw head coach John Morris fired, replaced by Josh Hannay who got the side to equal eighth, missing out on the finals by points differential.
He had the somewhat awkward issue of signing on as Cronulla coach in the middle of the season whilst still being an assistant at the Sydney Roosters.
But his appointment to a full time head coaching role has been a long time coming.
He started his journey as an assistant at the Roosters in 2012 after retiring in England.
The goal-kicking backrower enjoyed a storied career, beginning at the Illawarra Steelers, playing in the inaugural merged Dragons team, before playing 229 games for the tri-colours, netting 1,476 points at the club alongside 11 games for New South Wales and 19 games for Australia.
The Dream Is Alive
History beckons for the Parramatta Eels as they head into a preliminary final against the heavily favoured North Queensland Cowboys.
The Pitfalls of Chasing History
Recalling a legendary player or former coach is often tempting for a club trying to recapture former glory. But rarely does it work, and often it tarnishes the coach’s legacy.
Harry Grant: Following the Professor
Harry Grant has filled the Melbourne Storm boots of Cameron Smith and seems to be taking the hooking position to the next level.