Why Bellamy has surpassed icons as greatest coach

1 month ago 6
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Mark Levy is the host of 2GB's Wide World of Sports radio show. Tune in from 6pm-7pm, Monday to Thursday!

Who is the greatest rugby league coach of all time?

Is it Jack Gibson, Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy, who's one-win away from equalling a record that's stood for 46 years?

I've always said it's impossible and unfair to compare players and coaches from different eras, but it's worth debating when you consider Bellamy could this week follow in the footsteps of the legendary Jack Gibson, who modernised the game in the 1970s.

The 'Master Coach' guided Eastern Suburbs to consecutive grand final victories in 1974-75, before taking the Parramatta Eels to three premierships between 1981-83.

It was in 1975, Gibson coached the Roosters to a record 19 consecutive victories and they went on to claim back-to-back premierships; fast forward to 2021 and Bellamy's Melbourne Storm is on the same trajectory.

Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy. (Getty)

Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns recently declared on Freddy and the Eighth that Bellamy is the greatest coach of all time and it certainly got people talking.

'Joey' rattled off Bellamy's record of "20 years coaching, nine grand finals, he hasn't missed the semis; missed it once, when they got caught rorting the cap. Best coach ever".

So, how do you judge the GOAT?

Is it the number of premiership victories?

Is it success at multiple clubs?

Is it the culture that's created within a team?

Is it the consistency of a football side?

Iconic coach Jack Gibson. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Everyone has their own individual criteria and I'd add one more: do footballers become better players when they're coached by an individual like Bellamy, Gibson or Bennett?

Craig Bellamy ticks all of those boxes.

To lose superstars like Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, and to rebuild your playing roster with young blokes who you've identified through football manager Frank Ponissi and to still maintain a high level of success is nothing short of extraordinary.

Factor in the players who have become superstars in their own right under the Melbourne coach: Ryan Papenhuyzen, Josh Addo-Carr, Harry Grant, Nicho Hynes and Jahrome Hughes. There's no other way to describe Craig Bellamy, other than a genius.

He's an amazing bargaining chip and it's no wonder the rising stars of the game like Xavier Coates want to be a part of the regime at the Melbourne Storm. There are some players who finish their careers without playing finals footy, so could you imagine saying no to the Storm if they came knocking on your door?

Craig Bellamy and Jack Gibson. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Craig Bellamy's record speaks for itself. In 18 years as the head coach, he's won three titles, he's taken the Storm to the grand final nine times and after re-signing with the club, I have no doubt the success will continue for years to come.

I agree with Andrew Johns. Bellamy is the GOAT.

Wayne Bennett also has to be respected when you're talking about the greatest coach of all time. The 71 year-old is a seven-time premiership winner and he's won five of seven series with the Queensland Maroons, including last year's decider with a team of players labelled the "worst" in State of Origin history.

It's been 10 years since his last premiership, but the South Sydney Rabbitohs are timing their run to perfection and could end up farewelling their coach and their captain Adam Reynolds with another premiership ring. Bennett could become the first coach to win premierships with three different clubs.

South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett. (Getty)

That's something that cannot be underestimated, but there's an unspoken side to Bennett's coaching career and that's the mess he leaves behind. Steve Price replaced him at the St George Illawarra Dragons and inherited a dog's breakfast, and the same can be said for the Newcastle Knights, who are still working their way through the Nathan Tinkler regime in the Hunter.

Bennett finishes up at Redfern at the end of this season and the South Sydney roster for next year is a shadow of what the Bunnies are putting on the field at the moment. They'll be relying on lower-grade players who have hardly had any footy over the last two years because of COVID-19.

So, when you factor in the achievements of all three coaches, who's your pick for the greatest of all time?

**Let me know what you think by emailing the Wide World of Sports radio show here

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