You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Brit Pack: The role of coaching trio in rise of Broncos, Knights, Warriors

Brian McDermott has instilled belief in the Knights defence, Lee Briers has sharpened the Broncos attack and Richard Agar has got the Warriors outside backs firing.

The NRL has had its greatest influx of British coaches this season and McDermott, Briers and Agar have each played a key role in helping their team to the finals.

McDermott, who coached Leeds to four Super League titles and two Challenge Cup triumphs before taking Toronto Wolfpack to the top tier in 2020, has overseen Newcastle’s transformation to the best defensive team in the NRL.

Briers, who helped Warrington to three Challenge Cup victories and set numerous points scoring records during his 431 match Super League career, has been working with Brisbane’s spine players and kickers since moving from Wigan this season.

Lee Briers with rival 2011 4 Nations captains Darren Lockyer, Jamie Peacock and Benji Marshall
Lee Briers with rival 2011 4 Nations captains Darren Lockyer, Jamie Peacock and Benji Marshall ©SWPix

Broncos fullback Reece Walsh leads the NRL, along with Sharks halfback Nicho Hynes, for average line-break assists (1.9 per game), while Payne Haas is the highest offloading prop (2.1 per game).

Agar, who took Leeds to victory in the 2020 Challenge Cup, has previously coached Hull FC and Wakefied before a previous stint in the NRL with St George Illawarra in 2018 as pathways recruitment manager.

At the Warriors, Agar works with the edges, including star winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who has the best strike rate in the NRL this season after scoring 21 tries in 17 games at an average of 1.2 tries per game.

Richard Agar works with the Warriors edges, including Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Richard Agar works with the Warriors edges, including Dallin Watene-Zelezniak ©Photosport NZ

Knights forward Tyson Frizell has worked alongside all three; having been a team-mate of Briers in the Wales team at the 2011 Four Nations tournament, played at the Dragons while Agar was at the club and now being at Newcastle with McDermott.

“I knew the success he had at Leeds in the early days but on a personal level I didn’t really know too much of him before he came to the club,” Frizell said.

“He's been great for us, he looks after all our defence and you can probably see that at the start of the year, we were going through a different defensive system that he was determined for us to knuckle down and get right, and that's been working for us.

“We worked hard on it throughout the pre-season and there were probably a couple of teething issues, but he believed in it and knew it would work.

“It was just for us players to believe in it as well, but we know the team that we want to defend like and that’s been really good for us.”

Brian McDermott recruited Sonny Bill Williams to Toronto Wolfpack
Brian McDermott recruited Sonny Bill Williams to Toronto Wolfpack ©SWPix

In their first 15 matches, the Knights conceded 347 points at an average of 23.1 points per match and managed just six wins before going on a nine-match unbeaten run leading into the finals.

During that period, they have conceded just 104 points at an average of 11.5 points per game and boast the best defensive record in the NRL since their 66-0 shutout of the Bulldogs in Round 17.

“I guess you could say the turning point was against the ‘Dogs, but it started early in the year, just through doing things right for a long period of time,” Frizell said.

“He's a bit of a man's man, he is very direct, and he thinks outside the box. I guess he instils a bit of toughness and a belief that if you follow that it will work.

Brian McDermott oversaw four Super League premierships at Leeds
Brian McDermott oversaw four Super League premierships at Leeds ©SWPix

“He's not only helped me, but he's helped the whole team and we have bought into something that we now know does work. I guess he’s the leader of the ship there and we just had to follow and do what he has put in place.

“We weren't getting the results, but we weren't far off on a few occasions – in games against Manly, when we drew, and Penrith, when we lost by one point. Those would have seen us in the Top Eight or thereabouts.

“Most of our big learnings have probably come from games that we've lost and knowing that if we do it for a longer period of time, that it will work for us.

“It was up to us to believe that what we're doing was going to work and if we stuck at it then things would change.”

Road to Glory: Knights

Briers, who played alongside Broncos coach Kevin Walters at Warrington in 2001, has had a similar influence on the team’s attack and Walsh said he encouraged them to play more freely within structure.

Walsh tops the NRL for errors but he has also been arguably the Telstra Premiership’s buy of the year as he has ignited Brisbane’s attack, while Haas has taken his game to another level.

Reece Walsh's Origin Mixtape

“Lee has been awesome. I feel like he really encourages us to play football and use our strengths or what we're good at,” Walsh said.

“Coming over from the Super League, it's a bit of a different style of footy and I think he's brought that to our team and encouraged us to attack against other team’s weaknesses and really nailing into us to stick at that and what works.

“I feel like he's really got the best out of me and he encourages me to play footy, and to be confident in throwing the footy around because we've got a team that's got a lot of strengths, a lot of athleticism and he really encourages us to use that.

“He's taken our attack to another level and instilled a lot of confidence in our big boys to use the footy as well. I feel like that's been really good for us.”

Frizell said he was not surprised by the impact Briers has had on the Broncos after playing alongside him for Wales as an 18-year-old in his debut season at Cronulla.

“I didn’t realise at the time what he had done in the game but he was such a great competitor,” Frizell said.

“My earliest memories of him were how we would finish training and he would always be doing ‘Malcoms’ or something after training on his own.

“I used to think, ‘who is this guy’, but he took me under his wing a little bit and I was in awe of just his understanding of the game at that time and, I guess you could say, the balls that he had to be able to play the way he did.

“I remember us playing against Australia and he did a cross-field kick from inside our own 20 metres to our winger to make a line-break.

“He just had so much confidence in what he was doing, and he was able to do it for such a long period of time so I dare say he would be a pretty handy coach to be in charge of attack.”

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

Principal Partner

Major Partners

Official Sponsors

View All Partners