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Coach of the year: experts have their say

Which NRL coach has led the way in the 2018 Telstra Premiership season? Our reporters and contributors have their say.

Margie McDonald ( senior reporter)
Stephen Kearney. The team that travels the most kilometres and time zones used to have a rotten 'away' record. In 2017 it was 1-10 but Kearney has nailed it in 2018 with the Warriors a healthy 8-4. That's helped them turn around from 13th spot (and just seven wins) last season to top eight this year (15 wins). The style of play has also shifted back more to the old Harlem Globetrotters of rugby league they were in 2002 and 2011 when they last made the grand final.

Chris Kennedy ( reporter)
Anthony Seibold. The three teams that have largely exceeded expectations are Souths, the Warriors and Wests Tigers and the Rabbitohs have been the most dramatically improved of the three. The roster is almost identical to the one that ran 12th last year; Dane Gagai was the only notable recruit and obviously Greg Inglis's return from injury was a boost. But the incredible returns to form of the Burgess twins and the outstanding seasons of Damien Cook as well as the likes of Alex Johnston, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds and Robert Jennings, these all owe a huge debut to Seibold's coaching. The slick set plays, fast passing, exciting and attacking football, all are a departure from the 2016-17 Rabbitohs' style. Seibold has been around for a while in good systems but is nevertheless a first-year NRL coach so to have an unfancied team be considered a premiership heavyweight after 25 rounds is a massive achievement.

Paul Suttor ( editor)
Craig Bellamy. The competition is set up so what goes up must come down but Melbourne's mentor has yet again defied conventional wisdom by bringing the Storm to the brink of another premiership despite losing Cooper Cronk, Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean from last year's squad without bringing in any major recruits. He's an alchemist.

Andrew Marmont ( reporter)
Stephen Kearney. Has seemingly found a winning formula at the Warriors after six years of underachievement at the Auckland club. But probably his bravest (and most astute) decision came last year when he appointed Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as captain. It takes courage to ask your best player to wear the 'c', but he saw something in the fleet-footed fullback. And coupled with getting the likes of Alex Corvo, Blake Green and Tohu Harris on board this season, he's got the Warriors humming leading into their first finals campaign since 2011.

Brad Walter ( senior reporter)
Stephen Kearney. Under Kearney's guidance the Warriors have been a much more consistent and durable team than in previous seasons, as evidenced by the number of games they managed to win in the absence of big names stars such as Shaun Johnson.

Steve Renouf (Former Maroons centre)
Anthony Seibold. When you take over at a club with so much history like Souths Sydney there is a lot of pressure that goes with it. After winning the premiership four years ago they failed to back it up but Anthony Seibold has turned them into a premiership force in his first year. They are a threat everywhere you look across the park. Seibold has got the best out of Cody Walker, he has helped turn Damien Cook into one of the best hookers in the game and has found the secret to getting the Burgess brothers firing again.

Coaches Speak – Round 25

Joel Gould ( reporter)
Stephen Kearney. From his off-season recruitment drive right through to the end of round 25 the Warriors have been on one trajectory and that is up. Kearney had a massive job to turn the perennial underachievers around. Bringing Tohu Harris, Blake Green and Adam Blair to the club was a masterstroke and Kearney has moulded his team into a genuine title threat. The Warriors are playing with their renowned flair but Kearney has instilled a culture of discipline, toughness and consistency into the squad that has proven an elusive quest since 2011. He has also found a way to extract the best out of star players Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke and Shaun Johnson.

Michael Chammas ( chief reporter)
Anthony Seibold: Not many knew who he was when he was appointed as Michael Maguire's successor at the end of last year, but in the space of 12 months he has become one of the most sought after coaches in the game. Unleashing the potential of George and Tom Burgess, as well as the faith shown in Damien Cook to be an 80-minute player, has seen South Sydney enjoy a rapid rise up the ladder. Seibold's tactics and belief in the players is to thank for that.

Zac Bailey ( reporter)
Anthony Seibold. The rookie coach has taken the Rabbitohs from a team that missed last year's finals by three wins, to a team that only missed out on the minor premiership on points differential. He's transformed the Bunnies into the best attacking team in the NRL and is in with a red hot chance of taking out a premiership in his first year in charge. That would be a remarkable feat.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)
It may seem like an odd choice, but I am going to nominate Dean Pay for coach of the year. There has been plenty of change at Canterbury this year including a new board and a new CEO. The team and Pay have faced countless issues, several relating to salary cap management which has not only impacted the team this year, but also next year. Somehow out of all that and even after losing key players like Aaron Woods and Moses Mbye, Pay has managed to keep the squad together. The team has put together some convincing performances over the last couple of weeks over top eight teams and it looks like faith in youngsters is really beginning to pay off.

Top 5 Plays of the Week – Round 25

Peter Jolly ( reporter)
Craig Bellamy: The Melbourne Storm's long term dominance in the game has been reflected again in the 2018 season under Bellamy. The 58-year-old coach is set to enter his 17th season at the club in 2019 - you don't get those opportunities in the game if you're not doing something right. He has built a reputation transforming youth into superstars. That's why he's my best coach in 2018.

Alicia Newton ( reporter)
I've gone with Anthony Seibold ahead of Stephen Kearney for his ability to turn the Rabbitohs into title hopefuls after two years in the finals wilderness. Seibold has the Burgess twins in premiership-winning form again and stuck with his guns to play Damien Cook ahead of Robbie Farah. The Rabbitohs had the nucleus under Michael Maguire but have been burnt out from being overtrained. Not anymore. Considerable mention: Anthony Griffin – horrid injury toll to start the year, got the Panthers to the top four before his sacking.

Jamie Soward (Former Blues five-eighth)
Anthony Seibold. Fantastic first year after coming in with a lot of hype and pressure in your first year and to lose four from six to start the year then get them to where they are.

Tanisha Stanton ( reporter)
Anthony Seibold has turned the Bunnies around this season. From finishing 12th last year to becoming one of the most fierce competitors in the Telstra Premiership this season, the Rabbitohs have shown tremendous improvement off the back of Seibold's "pressure and efforts" game model. The Bunnies' nine-game winning streak was just a taste of what is yet to come for South Sydney throughout the finals series.

Hayley Byrnes ( reporter)
Stephen Kearney. The Warriors are finally back where they should be in the NRL top eight and much of the credit has to go to Kearney, whose smart recruiting and ability to get the best out of his stars has made the New Zealand club a genuine contender again.

Inside the NRL - Episode 26

David Piepers (Big League editor)
Finishing poorly since their 2014 title, Anthony Seibold has been able to get the best out of each and every member of South Sydney. He's got the likes of Inglis and Sam Burgess back to their best, he's got Crichton, Sutton, the Burgess twins and Cody Walker in fantastic form, and he's nurtured young talent like Campbell Graham, Cam Murray and Junior Tatola – and that's not mentioning Damien Cook. Attacking stats show that Seibold's systems are getting the best out of his individual talent and even if they didn't win another game this year (which they will), his reign has begun with resounding success.

Neil Cadigan ( reporter)
Anthony Siebold. To get the Rabbitohs back to their best shape since winning the competition in 2014 – from 12th last year to a top-four finish – in his first season as head coach, and to do it with an obvious purpose and ability to handle whatever has brewed around him, has been very impressive.

Katie Brown ( reporter)
Craig Bellamy. The Melbourne Storm coach is one of the best NRL coaches and since taking charge in 2003, his team has only missed one finals series (due to salary cap breaches). After winning the big dance last season, he should be applauded for coaching his men to another finals run. Don't underestimate this man's ability.

Dan Walsh ( reporter)
Anthony Seibold: Has taken essentially the same roster than finished 12th last year playing footy that oppositions could read like a picture book, and turned them into a genuine title threat and one of the game's most entertaining outfits. Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds are all firing while Damien Cook, Cody Walker, John Sutton and a host of others are in the best form of their careers. Seibold is the common denominator.

Dylan Morris ( reporter)
Craig Bellamy: The Storm coach's ability to maintain consistency by putting new recruits around a consistent spine has reached a new level of impressive with Cooper Cronk leaving. Despite his absence the Storm still look like they could go back-to-back.

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