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For & Against: Has Bellamy overtaken Bennett as game's best coach?

They are the two pre-eminent coaches of the modern era.

Wayne Bennett with his seven premierships and more than 900 games coached in a storied career that began way back in 1988 at Red Hill. 

And Craig Bellamy, the master Melbourne mentor who guided his team through the most challenging season on record to reach a fourth grand final in five years and take the title in a showdown with the precocious Panthers.

Bennett's six premierships at Brisbane and one with the Dragons have earned him the tag 'supercoach' but it has been 10 years since his last premiership and in that time Bellamy has made the Storm the benchmark by which all sides are measured.

In this week's For & Against, senior reporters Martin Lenehan and Brad Walter debate whether Bellamy has overtaken Bennett as the best in the business.

For senior reporter Martin Lenehan

At 62 years of age, Craig Bellamy has the fitness levels and intensity levels of a man 20 years his junior.

After 18 seasons at the helm in Melbourne he is still finding ways to reinvent himself and drive the standards on and off the field that make the Storm the envy of sporting clubs around the nation.

In 2020, where the Storm could easily have folded up and said 'it's all too hard' when they were forced to relocate to Queensland for five months away from family, friends and familiar surroundings.

But as he has done so many times during the past 18 years Bellamy found a way to inspire his men and get the best out of them when it mattered most.

Bellamy says 2020 title most likely his best

Bellamy nurtured four of the finest players of this generation in Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk and has also developed Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Jesse Bromwich, Brandon Smith, Josh Addo-Carr and so many more into rep stars with his unique mix of passion and professionalism.

Bellamy is relentless in his pursuit of excellence and his players clearly love their coach and his methods.

Over at Redfern, Wayne Bennett enjoyed another successful season, but Souths again came up short one week before the big dance, losing a preliminary final for the third year running.

It's no mean feat to make it to the prelim but the Storm never look as though they are satisfied just making it that far.

Bellamy takes it to a whole new level in the post-season and his stunning record of success in big games has seen him take over the mantle as the game's finest mentor.

Against senior reporter Brad Walter

Seven premierships. Eight grand finals. Twenty-nine finals series appearances.

That is Wayne Bennett’s coaching record since taking on his first head coaching role at the Broncos in 1988 and it is unlikely to be surpassed.

Bennett may not have won a premiership since 2010 but he has taken teams to within one win of the grand final in three of the last four seasons – Brisbane in 2017 and South Sydney in 2019 and 2020 – and lost the 2015 decider to North Queensland in extra-time.

At 70, he is still seeking to become the first coach to win premierships with three clubs after achieving the feat with Brisbane in 1992, 1993, 1997 (Super League), 1998, 2000 and 2006 and St George Illawarra in 2010.

Newcastle also fell one win short of the 2013 grand final under Bennett’s coaching, and the 2012 and 2014 seasons at the Knights were the only years he has not had a team in the finals since 1991 with Brisbane.

Craig Bellamy’s achievements with Melbourne have earned him the distinction of the best coach of the past decade but for longevity and success with different clubs as well as all facets of the game – including Origin and Test level – Bennett still reigns supreme.

Wayne's world: Bennett's plan to revive Maroons

His two stints with the Broncos have been followed by disaster, with the NRL’s No.1 club hitting rock bottom in 2020 to finish with their first wooden spoon, while the Dragons have not reached a grand final since his departure and Newcastle returned to the finals this season after a seven-year absence.

Yet Bennett has the opposite effect when he takes charge of a team, which is why Queensland turned to him for the upcoming State of Origin series after Kevin Walters was appointed to the Broncos job.

In three previous stints with the Maroons, Bennett has steered Queensland to five series wins and lost two.

On each occasion, Bennett took over after a losing series and he managed to steer the Maroons to glory in 1987, 1988, 1998, 2001 and 2002.

He was also instrumental in New Zealand’s 2008 Word Cup win, working with Stephen Kearney as an assistant coach and oversaw England’s 6-0 loss to Australia in the 2017 World Cup final, while achieving success with the Kangaroos in 1998 and 2004 but losing the 2005 Tri-Nations final. ​


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.


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