Lack of talent isn’t a problem in the NRL – but lack of good coaches may be

This post was first written for and published by the Roar.

here were plenty of stand-out players in the Wests Tigers 34-6 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday evening including Tommy Talau, David Nofoaluma and Joseph Leilua.

But there is one player that is being talked about a little more than the rest and that’s 22-year-old Harry Grant who the Tigers currently have on loan from the Melbourne Storm. In Sunday’s performance Grant led the number of tackles for the Tigers with 45, made 168 metres and scored a try.

He’s fast becoming a Tigers fan favourite with many already wondering if there is a way to keep the youngster at the Wests Tigers going forward.

How many of you had heard of Harry Grant before this season? I know I hadn’t.

It surprises me given his form in the lower grades which saw him lead the Sunshine Coast Falcons to the minor premiership last year and also named in the Intrust Super Cup team of the year. In just 22 Intrust Super Cup games, Grant scored 14 tries, had 21 try assists and averaged 100 metres a year.

Now believe it or not, this isn’t an article about Grant. Or the Tigers.

Harry Grant looks on

Harry Grant. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

When there are debates about expanding the NRL, one of the arguments always is that there is not enough talent for an additional two teams.

In fact, even now, given the disparity of performance between the top ten teams and the bottom six teams, some are suggesting that this is because of a lack of distribution of talent.

I think that’s completely incorrect.

How many more Harry Grant’s are playing in our elite state competitions?

There is plenty of talent to go around, but perhaps those in decision making positions aren’t looking hard enough.

The Melbourne Storm, along with the Sydney Roosters, have been the competition benchmark over the last decade.

It astounds me that no other clubs would look at the players next in line behind the likes of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.

The likes of Brandon Smith, Ryan Papenhuyzen and even Harry Grant have been there right under our noses and suddenly people are surprised at the depth of talent that the team has?

There is more than enough talent for another NRL team and I think anyone that looks at the competition this year and some of the blow outs and thinks otherwise, is confusing lack of talent among playing rosters with lack of talent in our coaching rosters.

It’s true what some people say – the coaches are not the ones on the field dropping balls and making errors. But the impact that good coaching can have on a squad is there for all to see.

Take two examples we’ve seen over the last couple of years.

Compare the Manly Sea Eagles performances when coached by Trent Barrett and when coached by Des Hasler. Hasler and Barrett effectively had the same team and we have seen the Sea Eagles transform from cellar dwellars to premiership contenders.

The Sea Eagles are also a really good example of a team that doesn’t have the ‘star power’ of say the Roosters or Melbourne, but what we have seen is Hasler improve the performance of the players under his care including the likes of Curtis Sironen.

The Newcastle Knights are another example. You could make a case that Nathan Brown spent many years ‘rebuilding’ the club. But the team’s performances under Brown compared to their new coach Adam O’Brien are there for all to see.

O’Brien has been a revelation for the Knights and I won’t soon forget the vision of him throwing his water bottle in disgust even when the Knights held a 12-0 lead a few weeks ago, because he was unhappy with the effort his team are putting in.

I guarantee that if you took Trent Robinson and Craig Bellamy from the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm and had these two men coach the Canterbury Bulldogs, Brisbane Broncos, St George Illawarra Dragons or even the North Queensland Cowboys, that the results would be vastly different.

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy at training

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Many will point to the superior rosters that these two men have, but it is no coincidence that players like Lindsay Collins and Nat Butcher are playing so well; they have a good coach.

Those two players would not be the same at another club. Just like the Morris twins, who are now somehow in career best form, nearing the end of their careers at the Roosters.

It also comes as no coincidence that you are hard pressed to find a player that has left the Storm and gone to another club and improved, whereas the number of players that have left the Storm and gone on to average careers is notable.

There are several underperforming teams in the competition at the moment and while some may lack the star power of the competition heavyweights, I think poor coaching has a far bigger role to play.