Former Eels and Premiership winning Knights coach Michael Hagan is already signed as a replacement for Neil Henry in the Maroons camp for 2010, but could this be the first step back to a fulltime NRL coaching role?
Hagan had initial success with the Eels in 2007, taking them one game from the Grand Final and in that year, they were the only NRL side to trouble the unstoppable Melbourne Storm.
Things looked good for both Hagan and the Eels.
But only 12 months later, there were cracks appearing all around the likeable Hagan.
When you assess the 2nd year at Parramatta that was Hagan’s undoing, there were a lot of forces all combining that ultimately brought him down.
There was the Tim Smith breakdown, attacking weapon Timana Tahu had left at the end of 2007, hoooker Mark Riddell had signed with Wigan and would depart at years end and the young Polynesian players were proving difficult to discipline, many fearing they were abusing the freedom allowed by the relaxed Hagan.
It all led to Hagan walking away from the Eels, he cited health reasons – with stress proving a big factor. There was no doubt that the Sydney spotlight and commuting from Newcastle was taking it’s toll on Hagan – but some suggested the likes of Denis Fitzgerald had also conspired to urge the coach to move on.
It was a massive lesson for Hagan who had previously only enjoyed the insular setting at Newcastle with early success.
But after agreeing to come back into the secondary Queensland origin coaching role, it could be a step towards a full blown NRL coaching return.
There has been a shortage of quality experienced coaches in the NRL for some time, with rookies and unknowns stepping in the breaches in recent years. Ivan Cleary, Jason Taylor, Ivan Henjack, Rick Stone and Kevin Moore all coming from lower ranks.
And while the likes of Moore have had early success; Taylor has fallen away, Cleary is doing it tough, the jury remains out on Henjack and Stone has it all to prove in 2010.
But as the axe hangs over the heads of several coaches in 2010 – the likes of Hagan would prove extremely valuable to an NRL team.
While success at Origin level would be a real boost to Hagan – regardless – if he enjoys the overall experience, expect the respected clipboard man to make himself available should a chance pop up in the NRL coaching ranks.