Dan Walsh, NRL.com
Caretaker coaches are all the NRL rage right now. The Dragons and the Warriors kicked us off in 2014 when they threw their top gigs the way of Andrew McFadden and Paul McGregor, and while the jury's still out on these two for the moment, though McFadden's certainly made the most of a potentially sticky situation and landed himself a three-year contract as the Warriors have warmed to his straight-shooting coaching style. And what about those Sharkies? They've gone the whole hog in installing former under-20s mentor James Shepherd as caretaker-caretaker coach, and within five days had reeled in a 24-0 deficit against the premiers for the greatest ever comeback in the club's history. Outstanding stuff.
NRL.com runs the rule over 10 of the most memorable temporary clipboard carriers, in tribute to one of the toughest gigs going in the greatest game of all.
Peter Sharp – Sharks 2014. Took over from Shane Flanagan (14 games: 3 wins, 11 losses)
One of rugby league's good guys was the reluctant recipient of a coaching hospital pass when Shane Flanagan was banned for his role in the ASADA peptides scandal, and has copped the equivalent of Sonny Bill Williams shoulder charge for his troubles. An injury list longer than Daniel Tupou's legs, none other than club skipper Paul Gallen questioning his commitment to the cause, and 40 days spent in the point-scoring desert were all trumped by Todd Carney's one man production of Rain Man, and resulted in Sharp finally packing up his bat and ball and heading for home, and really who could blame him?
Jason Taylor – Eels 2006. Took over from Brian Smith (16 games: 10 wins, 6 losses)
With just one win from his first four games in charge, the current Roosters assistant coach looked headed down the same worrying path as predecessor Brian Smith, but having already thrown future superstar Jarryd Hayne his first NRL jumper, Taylor then took the blue and gold on an inspired nine-game winning streak; the longest of any caretaker coach in the game's history. With Hayne racking up 17 tries in a tad over half a season, the Eels rose from 14th to the top four at one point, before three consecutive losses saw them exit the finals in the first week, bundled out via a tough 12-6 loss to Melbourne. The turnaround was not enough to keep Taylor at Parramatta with premiership winning coach Michael Hagan already on his way in, but it did land him a very nice gig over at Souths, who he took from the wooden spoon to their first finals appearance since 1989 the next year.
Rick Stone – Knights 2009. Took over from Brian Smith (5 games: 3 wins, 2 losses)
The second man in the space of four years to take a Brian Smith-led side into September, Stone deflected much of the praise for doing so to his predecessor, whose tumultuous three years at the club came to a close with three heavy losses that saw the Knights slip from sixth on the ladder to ninth a month out from the finals. Enter Stone, who engineered three wins from their last four games, including a 35-0 pasting of the Panthers in the last round to secure Newcastle's first finals appearance in three years. The run earned Stone an extended stay as head coach until Wayne Bennett's arrival at the club in 2012, where he's stayed on as the supercoach's right hand man and NSW Cup mentor.
Steve Georgallis – Panthers 2011. Took over from Matt Elliott (11 games; 4 wins, 7 losses)
Stepped into the void left out at the foot of the mountains by Matt Elliott's sudden departure and got off to a flying start, with three wins from his first four games, including an emotion-charged 20-6 defeat of the Bulldogs that shot the Panthers into the top eight and saw the players sing their team song out on the field at Sportingbet Stadium. Two wins from their next nine games suggests they jumped the gun on that public celebration, with newly arrived general manager Phil Gould preferring to install Ivan Cleary as coach for the following year, and Georgallis was out the door along with skipper Petero Civoncieva by season's end as Gould went about overhauling the club.
Brad Fittler – Roosters 2007. Took over from Chris Anderson (8 games: 5 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw)
One of the Roosters' favourite sons took the clipboard with the club in dire straits in 2007 and in just seven days performed the mother of all redemptions, turning around the 56-0 loss to Manly that had cost two-time premiership winner Chris Anderson his job with a 23-12 defeat of the Sharks. The Chooks went on to jag five wins and a draw from the last two months of the season – pulling them well clear of their first wooden spoon since 1966 that was a distinct possibility at the year's halfway point, and earning Fittler an extended stay in charge at Bondi. The relief was short-lived however, with the Roosters bagging the cutlery just two years later and Freddie losing his job as a result.
Jim Dymock – Bulldogs 2011. Took over from Kevin Moore (8 games: 5 wins, 3 losses)
Took the reins at the Dogs from Kevin Moore as their season started circling the drain, and dragged the blue and white up to ninth spot by the end of the year, missing out on a finals berth only because of a negative points differential. The former Tonga coach won plenty of admirers along the way too, making the tough call to axe Kangaroos centre Josh Morris from first grade that put the rest of the squad on notice, and he was all set to mentor the Bulldogs in 2012 as well until Des Hasler came across early from Manly.
Ian Millward – Cowboys 2008. Took over from Graham Murray (14 games: 2 wins, 12 losses)
Millward's impressive coaching record (two Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge in three years with St Helens) took one hell of a battering when he was handed Graham Murray's clipboard at the Cowboys, who had finished third just the previous year. Millward's win column remained conspicuously bare for nine long weeks midway through 2008, the worst start to a first grade coaching career since before World War II, before being broken with a 36-12 thumping of eventual wooden spooners the Bulldogs. With a staggering 36 players used across the course of the year as the Cowboys casualty ward screamed 'No Vancancy', Millward only tasted victory once more that year before being replaced by Neil Henry for the 2009 season.
Brad Arthur – Eels 2012. Took over from Steve Kearney (6 games: 2 wins, 4 losses)
Became Parramatta's fourth coach in five years when Kearney had had a gutful head of their Round 20 clash with Melbourne, which the Eels promptly won to record just their fourth win of the year. Arthur added another two in his first three games, including a 42-22 thumping of the Broncos on their home turf, a result that would live on as the club's last away win for 613 days. That is until Arthur returned to the blue and gold following Ricky Stuart's departure, and repeated the effort in Round 5 earlier this year at Suncorp in the process of guiding the Eels to a surprise, if not overdue resurgence in his first full season as a top coach.
Arthur Kitinas – Rabbitohs 2004. Took over from Paul Langmack (13 games: 3 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw)
Things started brightly enough for Kitinas when he was put in charge of the reigning wooden spooners midway through 2004, who had won just 10 games from the 56 they had played since being readmitted to the NRL two years previous. The Rabbitohs snuck home for tight wins over the Storm and Sea Eagles in Kitinas's first two top grade outings, only for the wheels to quickly fall off, with just a single win and a draw coming from their next 11 games, ending Kitinas's brief NRL career with a 62-22 thumping courtesy of the Raiders.
Andrew Dunemann – Raiders 2013. Took over from David Furner (3 games, 0 wins, 3 losses)
The Raiders still sat on the edge of the top eight when Andrew Dunemann jumped into the hot-seat vacated by David Furner with three weeks of the regular season still to go last year, behind the eight-placed Titans on for-and-against alone. The former journeyman halfback publicly declared his desire to stay in charge of the Green Machine beyond 2103, but couldn't arrest the slide already started under Furner as the Raiders bombed out with three heavy losses where they conceded an average of 41 points a game, before making way for club legend Ricky Stuart.