As a player, I've had a close association with some wonderful coaches and since I've retired, there have been some others who have also risen to great heights in the game.
So to come up with my Top 10 best coaches over the past 40 years, which has been the criteria, hasn't been an easy task. Some really good coaches in any era, guys like Chris Anderson, Brian Smith, Frank Stanton, Michael Hagan, Don Furner to name a few, have been left out.
I'll no doubt cop a bit of stick for one or two of my choices and not everyone will agree with the order but here is how I rate them.
1. Wayne Bennett
His seven premierships tell the story. Yes, he has had some great sides but he has had success at most places he has been to with multiple titles at the Broncos and then at the Dragons. He is just proven over a long period of time. I actually played under Wayne in my first year at the Raiders in 1987. He was strong discipline-wise, strong on learning the basics and mentally getting yourself right to play. Tactically, he's not big on concentrating too much on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. His focus has always been his own players.
2. Tim Sheens
I had a lot of success with Tim at the Raiders with three premierships there and then he moulded a squad of largely up-and-coming players to win another one at the Wests Tigers when people thought his career was washed up. Tactically, he's the smartest coach I've ever had. His ability to pull apart an opposition and nail down their strengths and weaknesses was second to none and he was big on being able to analyse and convey to his players what they were about to face in combat. He was someone who 24/7 lived and breathed footy.
3. Jack Gibson
I had the privilege of playing under Jack in Origin in 1989. He was right into the discipline side of things and getting the best out of players both footy-wise and as people. He was innovative but also simplistic in his approach and made everyone realise the simple play was just as effective as the big play. Jack was a fantastic man manager and obviously had great success at the Roosters and then with his premiership hat-trict at the Parramatta Eels.
4. Craig Bellamy
To do what he has been able to do at Melbourne has been remarkable. His winning record since he started coaching tells the story of how consistently good he has been. Like Sheens, he is big on picking apart opposition teams but one of his greatest strengths is his own work ethic and the expectations he puts on his team in that regard as a result. Players who don't give their absolute best all the time don't hang around too long in the Storm system.
5. Bob Fulton
I played under Bozo for the Kangaroos and in a lot of ways, he was similar to Sheens. Much like he was as a player, he was a flamboyant coach who loved to see his players chance their arm and use the footy. But he also had really good defensive systems in place which made his Manly sides so hard to beat. Bozo was tough and uncompromising and I don't think I have ever met a more competitive person at just about anything.
6. Phil Gould
I played under Gus and was an assistant to him with the Blues and he was an unbelievable coach. He had this great ability to get his players to peak when it really counted and he was a great analyser of an opposition's strengths and weaknesses. One of his biggest assets was he could deliver a message better than almost anyone, he knew how to press the right buttons and gave his players enormous belief.
7. Warren Ryan
I played for Country under the Wok and really enjoyed the experience. His knowledge of the game was second to none, he always got his message across in a simple but effective way and you always felt educated in his company. It's no fluke plenty of high quality coaches played under him at some stage.
8. Des Hasler
They don't call him the "Mad Professor" for nothing but Des' record speaks for itself and so does the fact his players love playing under him. He is right into the sports science aspect of rugby league and is always looking for that edge. He has had a lot of success at Manly and the Bulldogs and now back at Brookvale, I reckon there is more to come in the future.
9. Ricky Stuart
Yes, he is a mate of mine but that doesn't impact my decision to put him in this company. He won a premiership with the Roosters in his first year and made two more grand finals, enjoyed a lot of success with the Sharks and took the Raiders to within a whisker of winning the title last season. He has also coached at State and Test level. Tactically, he is right up there and emotionally, he gives it absolutely everything. He's a wonderful coach.
10. Trent Robinson
What he has done at the Roosters since landing the job has been outstanding and I've got no doubt by the time he is finished, he will be a lot higher up on this list. He commands enormous respect from his players who all love playing for him and while he has a host of quality players, he has been able to get the absolute best out of them.