Cowboys coach Paul Green and Roosters counterpart Trent Robinson face off in a preliminary final.

Green, Robinson in battle of the coaches

While Cameron Smith is the unbackable favourite to take out this year's Dally M Award, the race for best coach of 2017 is much tighter with up to half-a-dozen candidates in the running to claim the coveted prize.  

Storm coach Craig Bellamy deserves plenty of credit for helping his side secure consecutive minor premierships. Melbourne have transformed their playing style in 2017, with last year's grand finalists happy to chance their arm more than ever. 

Broncos mentor Wayne Bennett was meant to have lost his aura in the pre-season but he has proven the critics wrong to help his side get to the final four. He's had to deal with injuries to key personnel and the impending departures of star players as well. 

Parramatta's resurgence has been clear to see and many think it wouldn't have been possible without Brad Arthur's leadership. The Eels finished in the top four just 12 months after they had their season turned on its head by revelations they had rorted the salary cap.   

There were some people calling for the Sea Eagles to part ways with coach Trent Barrett after Manly lost their first two games at home. Instead, the club kept the faith and were rewarded as Barrett led his young troops to a place in the top eight. 

‌While all of those men are wonderful candidates, the winner of Saturday night's clash between the Roosters and Cowboys deserves to go down as the best clipboard carrier in 2017. 

While finals form won't count towards Dally M Coach of the Year voting, it's hard to ignore what Trent Robinson and Cowboys counterpart Paul Green have achieved this season. 

Green led North Queensland to its maiden premiership two years ago but you can make a case for 2017 being his best season in charge. 

Star players, and co-captains, Johnathan Thurston (seven games played) and Matt Scott (two games played) have missed the majority of the year, leading everyone but those involved with the Cowboys to tip them to miss the top eight. 

Instead, Green has rallied his troops and has them one win away from a place in the grand final. He's turned rookies into first-graders, workhorses into stars and has found a way to turn Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan into freaks of the game. 

"It's always good to have a coach who believes in his team and a coach who can always get the best out of his players when times are at their toughest. He's definitely been able to do that this year," Cowboys centre Justin O'Neill told NRL.com after his side's gutsy semi-final win over Parramatta. 

"We've had people back us out all year, the media wrote us off once we lost our two captains, but he instilled a lot of belief in the boys and that drove us. 

"The belief that we could still achieve something this year was driven by him and it stuck with us."

According to Thurston, Green's biggest strength is his ability to take players to new heights. 

"The best thing about Greeny is that not only is he a smart footballer with great tactics, he also gets the best out of his players," the injured playmaker told NRL.com. 

"You've seen everyone lift a gear in 2017 and we've had a lot of debutants this year and they've all done the club extremely proud."

Robinson has Roosters crowing

The Cowboys will start sentimental favourites on Saturday night but the bookmakers have the Roosters as the team to beat in the grand final qualifier. 

While the players have lapped up the praise in 2017, Trent Robinson has been the forgotten man behind their charge from 15th to second in the space of 12 months. 

Success has come easily for Robinson – he won three-straight minor premiership from 2013-15 – but the club endured a tough year on and off the field in 2016 as they managed just six wins to only finish ahead of the Knights. 

The premiership-winning coach was repeatedly asked in 2016 how he was dealing with the challenges, and without fail replied that he embraced it and was looking forward to his side's response. 

They finished last season with three wins from their final six matches – including victories over the Broncos and Cowboys – and there was a noticeable culture change around the club with the Roosters winning the National Youth Competition in 2016 before they went on to claim the Auckland Nines title in the 2017 pre-season. 

Roosters co-captain Boyd Cordner said those final few weeks last season spoke volumes about Robinson's style.  

"He was still the same to how he's coaching now. He hasn't changed. He still wanted to win every game last year and he was still the same coach," Cordner said. 

"I've got the utmost respect for Robbo. Since he's come here in 2013, the success he's had here is not a coincidence. It's a lot of hard work. 

"He covers so much and all we have to worry about in the end of the day is going out and performing at our best. He looks after the rest and he's got all the respect of the playing group and everyone around the club. I can't speak highly enough of him."

The intriguing twist is that Green was an assistant coach at the Roosters in 2013 when they won the competition while he also led their NYC side to the semi-final that year.

Cordner knew at the time that Green would one day become a great NRL coach, and didn't have to wait too long for his prediction to unfold as he headed north in 2014 to take over at the Cowboys. 

"He was 20s coach at the time but he was always at our training sessions," Cordner recalled. 

"He's a great coach and I'm not surprised by the success he's had up in North Queensland. 

"He demands respect because he's a past player and he knows what he's talking about. He just has that respect off the playing group, he's smart and he's a tough coach. He's someone that players want to play for."