For so long rugby league was their obsession, their lives dedicated to victory and success in the NRL. Then the axe falls and life as they know it changes.
For so long rugby league was their obsession, their lives dedicated to victory and success in the NRL. Then the axe falls and life as they know it changes.

What happens to NRL coaches once they’re sacked?

Former Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan spent more than 20 years selling the game of rugby league. Now he's in Newcastle, selling houses. Just over 12 months after being sacked by the Titans, Brennan has resurfaced as a real estate agent. "I love the game and if the right job came along be it in junior development or the lower grades again, I'd love it,'' Brennan said.

"But I've got bills to pay, a young family to provide for, so I can't wait around.

"Property investment and real estate has always been a big passion of mine, so I'm having a big crack at it.''

Mark Murray, the former Queensland State of Origin, Roosters and Melbourne coach, is also in the property game, selling $1 million waterfront houses in Brisbane.

Famous for falling agonisingly short of winning the 2001 premiership with Parramatta, Brian Smith is a coach no more. Lately, he has been working on winning ratings as an Uber driver.

Arthur Kitinas is still running the Marrickville tyre shop he's manned since he left Souths in 2004 and remember Brian 'Bluey' McLennan, the Warriors coach from 2012?

He's also working with cars, repairing transmissions, outside of Auckland.

Phil Economidis, the 67-year-old former coach of the 1997 Gold Coast Chargers, continues to coach in Belgrade, while former Manly coach Geoff Toovey catches the bus to the city each day for his job as a chartered accountant.

 

 

Garth Brennan training the Titans. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Garth Brennan training the Titans. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Welcome to the afterlife for an NRL coach - a place where our favourite mentors and master tacticians learn to start again.

Cold, callous and cutthroat, the pressure on coaches from fans and football club boards has resulted already this season in Dean Pay (Canterbury), Stephen Kearney (Warriors), Paul Green (North Queensland) and Paul McGregor (St George Illawarra) leaving their clubs.

If the Broncos part ways with the heavily-scrutinised Anthony Seibold, it will be the most coaches let go during a season in 22 years.

So what becomes of our once-revered leaders?

 

Arthur Kitinis while coaching the Rabbitohs in 2004.
Arthur Kitinis while coaching the Rabbitohs in 2004.

 

Where do they go, what do they do and how do they feel when they read about another one of their brethren being shown the door?

Despite his brief stint in the top job at the Titans, where he won 12 of 40 games, Brennan while shattered to have his career crushed, didn't waste time wallowing in his sudden exit.

He dusted himself off and secured work at the NRL earlier this year, reviewing the performance of referees, before he fell victim of the COVID-19 crisis that led to job cuts at League Central.

The 48-year-old has since returned to his home of Newcastle where he's a budding real estate agent and property investor.

"I enjoyed that," Brennan said of his role with the NRL. "My priority wasn't to get back into it (NRL coaching). It was to get my family back home and life settled.

"I always like a challenge, so I said 'what's next' and real estate is a really good challenge.

"It's (real estate) always been something I've been passionate about. I've always been into investment properties and it's a challenge I'm enjoying.

"They're a young and enthusiastic firm (Creative Property Co) and I'm learning the ropes with them.

Garth Brennan is forging ahead in his new career in Newcastle. Pic Sue Graham
Garth Brennan is forging ahead in his new career in Newcastle. Pic Sue Graham

 

"I'm seeing all these coaches getting sacked and so I'm grateful at the moment.''

The loneliness and uncertainty that coaches feel after being axed is why former Raiders, Cowboys and Titans coach Neil Henry is passionate about setting-up rugby league's first-ever coaches association, both to provide support and a collective voice for the game's leading mentors.

Kitinas was smart enough to realise that NRL coaching doesn't last forever.

He had his tyre shop to fall back on when he left the Rabbitohs while another coach, former Cronulla mentor Stuart Raper made the timely decision to buy a formal wear business only a few weeks before his sacking from the Sharks in 2006.

"Most coaches are ex-players, who have only ever been in rugby league, so they really don't have anything to fall back on when that time comes,'' Raper said.

"Others make a bit of money out of their careers, while there's others like me, who wasn't at that great height for a long time, so to have the formal hire business was very fortunate.

"With that going, I was able to do some work with Fox Sports, the Men of League and now the NSWRL (referee high performance manager) for the past three years, so I'm one of the lucky ones who has been able to stay involved with the game.''

 

Stuart Raper had the foresight to buy a business outside of the rugby league world.
Stuart Raper had the foresight to buy a business outside of the rugby league world.

 

 

 

Both Kitinas and Raper agreed that with their exit from elite level coaching unfolding more than 15 years ago, the pressure on results today, had gone to a new level.

"It's the nature of the beast. You're hired to be fired,'' Raper said.

"As (former coach) Warren Ryan would say, 'Coaches should rent, not buy'

"It's hard to have longevity in the game, you have to be exceptionally good. You've got to have a good squad, you have to have a good organisation.

"A prime example of that is the Roosters, from top to bottom, they recruit well and support their coaches by putting support around them."

On the phone from his Marrickville work shop, Kitinas added: "You feel for them (sacked coaches), for different reasons.

"The thing is with all of them is that sometimes there's things that are out of their control that lead to that failure.

"Recruitment can make or break a coach and influences around the club can make it very difficult to do your job.

"So just because they're sacked, doesn't mean they're necessarily a bad coach.''

 

 

WHERE ARE THEY NOW

GARTH BRENNAN

Gold Coast (2018-19)

Win record: 30%

Axed after 12 wins from 40 games following a review by Gold Coast head of performance and culture Mal Meninga. Brennan dusted himself off to secure work at the NRL, reviewing the performance of referees at the beginning of this year before he was a victim of the COVID-19 crisis that led to job cuts. The 48-year-old returned home to Newcastle where he's a budding real estate agent and property investor.

 

Brian Smith with Nathan Hindmarsh during his tenure at the Eels.
Brian Smith with Nathan Hindmarsh during his tenure at the Eels.

 

BRIAN SMITH

Illawarra (1984-87), St George (1991-95), Parramatta (1997-2006), Newcastle (2007-09), Roosters (2010-12)

Win record: 52.7%

Sacked with a year remaining on his contract at the end of 2012 by the Roosters, Smith spent 36 years in the game as a coach. He was general manager of the Warriors for two years, with the 66-year-old let go last November. He has been working in his spare-time as an Uber driver in Brisbane.

ANTHONY GRIFFIN

Brisbane (2011-14), Penrith (2016-18)

Win record: 55.5%

Controversially sacked at Penrith just four weeks out from the 2018 finals. The 53-year-old remains hungry to succeed in the NRL and the Cowboys are believed to be impressed with his interview last week as he jostles to take over from Paul Green. Offers mentoring and one-on-one coaching to business leaders, also a member of 2GB's Continuous Call Team.

IVAN HENJAK

Brisbane (2009-10)

Win record: 52.9%

'Where's Wally' is easier to find than the former Broncos coach. Not even senior members of Brisbane management have heard from Henjak in years. The 57-year-old was axed three weeks before the start of the 2011 season. From the glamour of coaching one of Australia's biggest clubs, Henjak filled his time laying artificial turf, selling beds and coaching the Sunshine Coast Falcons in 2014 - only to quit 10 games into the season.

 

Geoff Toovey is now working as an accountant.
Geoff Toovey is now working as an accountant.

 

 

 

GEOFF TOOVEY

Manly (2012-15)

Win record: 58.1%

Has made no secret of his desire to continue NRL coaching, having applied for the Warriors job this year. 'Tooves" is an astute judge of football having coached Manly to the 2013 grand final and regular appearances on Fox League. Every other day, he catches the bus from Sydney's Northern Beaches into the city to work as a chartered accountant.

 

MATTHEW ELLIOTT

Canberra (2002-06), Penrith (2007-11), Warriors (2013-14)

Win record: 45.7%

Mentored world surfing champion Mick Fanning while coaching in the NRL and it's in the area of mental focus, health and wellbeing that Elliott continues to apply his skill set. Alongside former NRL players Anthony Minichiello and Mark Hughes, Elliott works for The Change Room, which delivers live webinars for participants to manage their health and wellbeing remotely. He is also a member of the commentary team for ABC Grandstand.

 

Matthew Elliott is a commentator for ABC Grandstand. Picture: Mark Nolan/Getty Images
Matthew Elliott is a commentator for ABC Grandstand. Picture: Mark Nolan/Getty Images

 

BRIAN 'BLUEY' McCLENNAN

Warriors (2012)

Win record: 36.4%

McClennan coached the Hibiscus Raiders in Auckland's Fox Memorial premiership last year but, following his elderly father Mike's disappearance and death last year, decided he would retire from coaching. Together with his family, 'Bluey' devotes much of his time to supporting Dementia Auckland. He also runs Kaspa Transmissions, a transmissions repair business, outside of Auckland.

KEVIN MOORE

Canterbury (2009-11)

Win record: 53%

Cut by the Bulldogs midway through the 2011 season, Moore teamed-up with brother-in-law and former Canterbury coach Chris Anderson to create a recruitment company, Anderson Recruitment and Training. As the company's business development manager, Moore is focused on job placement, recruitment and labour hire for companies Australia-wide.

NEIL HENRY

Canberra (2007-08), North Queensland (2009-13), Gold Coast (2014-17)

Win record: 43.5%

Current head coach of Junior Kangaroos. Outside of coaching the best under-23 players in the country, Henry is a consultant to the NRL, focusing on player development, while he also sits on the board of the newly-formed coaches union, the Rugby League Coaches Association (RLCA).

 

 

Former Gold Coast Chargers coach Phil Economidis on the golf course. Picture: Gerard Walsh (Warwick Daily News)
Former Gold Coast Chargers coach Phil Economidis on the golf course. Picture: Gerard Walsh (Warwick Daily News)

 

PHIL ECONOMIDIS

Gold Coast (1996-98)

Win record: 31.3%

He famously led the ragtag Gold Coast Chargers to the 1997 ARL finals, a remarkable achievement given the side was quickly assembled from discards from rival clubs. In March, Economidis, 67, was set to be appointed as head coach of Red Star Belgrade, a Serbian footy club seeking entry into the English Super League's Challenge Cup, until COVID-19 forced the pause of the competition.

STUART RAPER

Cronulla (2004-06)

Win record: 42.5%

Raper and wife Cathy bought a formal wear hire company, Formal Wear 2 Suit U, only a month before he was let go by Cronulla. The company is thriving today. Raper's main line of work is for the NSWRL as referee high performance manager, overseeing grade and junior representative squads.

 

Royce Simmons as coach of Penrith alongside John Cartwritght back in 1994.
Royce Simmons as coach of Penrith alongside John Cartwritght back in 1994.

 

 

ROYCE SIMMONS

Penrith (1994-2001)

Win record: 41.8%

Living proof that your character will always be your greatest selling-point. Simmons has worked with the Panthers sponsorship and corporate hospitality team since he finished coaching in 2012. He can host up to 60 events a year for Penrith's major sponsors. However, the numbers of events have declined this year due to COVID - giving his liver much-needed respite.

MARK MURRAY

Roosters (1991-94), Melbourne (2001-02)

Win record: 41.9%

A qualified teacher, the former Queensland State of Origin, Roosters and Melbourne coach is now in his sixth year as a real estate agent. Murray spends his weekend's selling $1m homes for Waterfront Properties Redcliffe, in Brisbane.

 

PETER SHARP

Manly (1999), Northern Eagles (2000-02), Manly (2003), Cronulla (2013-14)

Win record: 37.6%

The former Manly and Northern Eagles head coach, and 2014 Cronulla interim coach joined Parramatta later that year, where he had worked as an assistant coach on three separate occasions, joined the Eels in 2014 as their list manager. He remains in the role, commuting from his home in the Shire most days

 

 

 

Jason Taylor had stints at the Rabbitohs and the Tigers.
Jason Taylor had stints at the Rabbitohs and the Tigers.

 

 

 

JASON TAYLOR

Parramatta (2006), South Sydney (2007-09), Wests Tigers (2015-17)

Win record: 43.6%

From his acrimonious departure at the Tigers, 'JT' secured an assistant role at the Roosters in 2017, before taking over as head coach of NSW Cup feeder club North Sydney in 2018.

He's contracted to the Bears until the end of 2021, but also works one-on-one with the Roosters' goalkickers, including Kyle Flanagan.

ARTHUR KITINAS

South Sydney (2004)

Win record: 23.1%

One of the smarter ones who knew from the day he was appointed head coach, it was another day closer to being fired. Took over his father's tyre shop in Marrickville after leaving Souths, where he works today. Kitinas remains an influence in the game as a development coach for the Roosters' Harold Matthews and SG Ball sides.

 

 

Paul Langmack had a brief stint as coach of the Rabbitohs. Picture: Stephen Cooper
Paul Langmack had a brief stint as coach of the Rabbitohs. Picture: Stephen Cooper

 

PAUL LANGMACK

South Sydney (2003-04)

Win record: 14.3%

Sacked in his second season at a tough time for Souths, in round 12, 2004, and replaced by Kitinas, Langmack's infectious personality made certain that he wasn't lost to the game. After a stint with Sportsbet as state sales manager, the 55-year-old has been with the NSWRL since 2012, as corporate events manager, offering Blues' sponsors the VIP treatment at State of Origin time.

DAVID WAITE

Newcastle (1991-94), St George (1996-98), St George-Illawarra (1999-2000)

Win record: 51.6%

The 1996 Dally M coach of the year took St George to the 1996 grand final and the merged St George Illawarra to the 1999 grand final. Waite was then controversially replaced by Andrew Farrar halfway through the 2000 season. Had stints with the Great Britain rugby league team as coaching director from 2001-03, as the head coach of Catalans for five games in 2006, before returning as an assistant in 2014. These days, he's providing tutelage to junior rugby league coaches at Runaway Bay in Queensland.

 

 

John Lang won a premiership at the Panthers and also coached at the Sharks and Rabbitohs.
John Lang won a premiership at the Panthers and also coached at the Sharks and Rabbitohs.

 

 

 

DANIEL ANDERSON

Warriors (2001-04), Parramatta (2009-10)

Win record: 52.8%

Grand final appearances with Parramatta and the Warriors before winning a premiership with St Helens in the UK. He coached the Kiwi Test team before overseeing the NRL's referees for just under 12 months in 2012. A move back to the Eels in 2013 as their GM of football would prove tumultuous, resulting in a two-year ban from the game for his role in the Eels' salary cap scandal in 2016. Now works as head of recruitment at the Roosters.

JOHN LANG

Cronulla (1994-2001), Penrith (2002-06), South Sydney (2010-11)

Win record: 53.8%

Came down to Cronulla from Brisbane and had a major impact on the Sharks' consistent finals appearances, including the 1997 Super League grand final. The last coach to lead Penrith to a premiership in 2003. Happily retired, the 69-year-old lives on the Gold Coast, where he keeps fit body surfing, bike riding and swimming laps across the canal where he lives.

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Originally published as What happens to NRL coaches once they're sacked

Brennan is now a real estate agent. Picture: Sue Graham
Brennan is now a real estate agent. Picture: Sue Graham
Arthur Kitinis at Marrickville tyres. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Arthur Kitinis at Marrickville tyres. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Anthony Griffin is in the running for the Cowvboys job. Picture: Tim Hunter
Anthony Griffin is in the running for the Cowvboys job. Picture: Tim Hunter
Ivan Henjak had a short stint at the Sunshine Coast Eagles. Picture: Andrew Seymour
Ivan Henjak had a short stint at the Sunshine Coast Eagles. Picture: Andrew Seymour
Brian McClennan retired from coaching last year. Picture: Annette Dew
Brian McClennan retired from coaching last year. Picture: Annette Dew
Kevin Moore with Brett Kimmorley at the Bulldogs.
Kevin Moore with Brett Kimmorley at the Bulldogs.
David Waite had five years at the Dragons.
David Waite had five years at the Dragons.
Daniel Anderson coached Parramatta to a grand final.
Daniel Anderson coached Parramatta to a grand final.


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