Sharks coach Shane Flanagan watches his team during their warm up before the round X NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks at Jubilee Oval in Sydney on Sunday, May 31, 2015.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan watches his team during their warm up before the round X NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks at Jubilee Oval in Sydney on Sunday, May 31, 2015. AAP Image - Paul Miller

Is Sharks mentor real chance for top coach?

MY opinion has always been that the NRL coach of the year should be the one whose team wins the grand final.

He has conquered the toughest challenge, so he deserves the greatest accolade.

Maybe my assertion could be construed as a contradiction of last week's argument that the team that wins the minor premiership should receive more recognition.

But for a coach, fine-tuning his team for the four-week finals period is as tough as it gets.

And besides, the premiership-winning coach has already done a commendable job over 26 rounds to get his team to the finals.

That being said, if there was an award for the most outstanding achievement by a coach in season 2015, Sharks mentor Shane Flanagan would be a hands-down winner.

For starters, to take a team from wooden spooners to finalists in one year is an amazing feat.

And they aren't finished yet, although it will take a herculean effort to win in Townsville tomorrow night.

Let's not forget from where Flanagan came - and I'm not talking about geographically.

He was rubbed out of the game in 2014 for his part in the ASADA supplements scandal.

And that off-field drama adds volumes to not just what Flanagan achieved as coach this season, but how his players have responded.

Many of them, in particular Paul Gallen, have been tortured by that veil of suspicion for almost two years.

Yet they were able to put that controversy to bed, finish in fifth spot and then beat defending premiers, the Rabbitohs, last weekend.

And they have done with, in all due respect, a team consisting of many rejects and even a couple who didn't want to be there.

During the season both Michael Gordon and Sam Tagatese sought a release - Gordon to join the Eels, Tagatese to jump ship to the Roosters.

After much consternation, particularly involving Gordon, their requests were denied.

And their two most obvious rejects, Michael Ennis and Jeff Robson, have been among their best all season and their leadership is largely responsible for the success of the Sharks.

Ennis, unwanted by the Bulldogs, is possibly the buy of the year while Robson, with Chad Townsend and James Maloney on board for next season, faces an uncertain future.

Adding to the soap opera at Shark Park in more recent weeks has been a public spat between Phil Gould and Gallen; the suspension of the Fifita brothers for abusing junior referees; and Gallen's supposed mistreatment of young fans.

But if on-field form is a yardstick, all that has been like water of a shark's back.

And riding that wave beside those Sharks is coach Flanagan - unflappable, down-to-earth and hugely resilient.

And, just maybe, coach of the year.


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