Andrew Webster is the raging favourite to win the Dally M Coach of the Year Award after he helped the Warriors reach the finals for the first time since 2018 in his first season in charge.
No Warriors coach has won the award since Daniel Anderson in 2002, but the engravers must be halfway through putting Webster’s name on the medal given he’s taken the team into the top four when very few people thought they’d play finals.
While the Warriors are the sentimental story of the year and will have plenty of support from the neutrals heading into the finals, there are some other coaching candidates who deserve to be in the mix for the prestigious award, including Newcastle’s Adam O’Brien, who has done a terrific job after there were fears he would lose his job.
First on that list is Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, who won the award in 2014 and 2020 and is just three wins away from leading his side to three-straight NRL titles.
He played a key role in developing Webster as a coach during their time together at Penrith, while he’s also kept his team at the top despite losing both assistants as well as stars Viliame Kikau and Api Koroisau in the off-season.
The Panthers have handled the loss of key personnel and finished the season on top of the table with the best defensive and attacking records in the league thanks in large to their coach who doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
“I don’t know what more he could do,” Nathan Cleary said of his dad after the pair spent Father’s Day at Ivan’s place for breakfast before the family met with the halfback’s grandfather for lunch.
“At the start of every year there are murmurs that we’re going to fall off because we’ve had success and we’re losing people.
“But it’s been pretty impressive what he’s been able to build with the culture and the systems that allows new people to come in and do the job.
“I don’t think winning it means a lot to him, plus you’ve got some amazing nominees this year like Webby and Kevvie Walters with what they’ve been able to do, but I don’t know what else he can do.”
Just like the Warriors, the Broncos have exceeded expectations in 2023, with only a final-round slip-up costing them their first minor premiership in 23 years.
This is a young team that folded late to miss out on the finals last year that led to huge questions over Walters’ coaching credentials.
But he’s turned them around this year and has the Broncos back in the finals for the first time since 2019.
“I think Kevvie deserves to be coach of the year,” veteran halfback Adam Reynolds said.
“You only have to look back a couple of years ago when he took over the Broncos, he came in at a time where the team wasn’t doing too well and their confidence was shot.
“Players weren’t playing to their potential and he has turned the club around in a short amount of time. He has the belief factor back in the team and he has got us playing an exciting brand of football that everyone loves watching.
“I love Kevvie as a bloke. He is a terrific fella who knows how to have a good time, but he knows when to be serious. They are good traits to have as a coach.”
One of the only criticisms of the Warriors this year is that they haven’t beaten a top-four side, whereas the Storm went 2-0 against Brisbane, knocked off Webster’s team but lost their two games to Penrith.
It’s a mixed record for Melbourne, but that’s been the story for most of their year, with their trademark consistency questioned, only for them to storm home with an average of 34.5 points scored per game over the final six rounds.
Crag Bellamy has won the award six times but this has been one of his finest efforts to have the Storm in third spot given Ryan Papenhuyzen has missed most of the year, while the club headed into the season without four of their best forwards.
“We had a lot of turnover with the Bromwich brothers, Brandon Smith, Felise Kaufusi all gone,” skipper Christian Welch said.
“These guys were a mainstay of our side for a long time and they’re all proven winners which you’ve seen at Redcliffe and it’s why they went after these guys.
“They’re battle-hardened first-graders, so to replace those guys and have other guys step up (has been huge).
“We’ve had to look elsewhere with guys like Will Warbrick coming from the Olympics with the rugby sevens program in New Zealand.
“We’ve had Eli Katoa who wasn’t getting a run at the Warriors and is now one of our best players, and then we’ve had the emergence of Nick Meaney, who had a great year in 2022 as the utility but has now locked down the fullback spot.
“That’s a testament to the system we’ve got here and the coaching. The players work really hard and then the coaches drive that in the pre-season.”
https://thewest.com.au/news/i-dont-know-what-more-he-could-do-andrew-webster-clear-favourite-but-rival-coaches-in-the-mix-for-dally-m-award-c-11805992 ‘I don’t know what more he could do’: Andrew Webster clear favourite but rival coaches in the mix for Dally M Award