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Simply the Best: Stars galore in greatest team of past 30 years

Craig Bellamy has beaten Wayne Bennett to claim the Simply the Best coaching honour and after more than 850,000 votes the team of the last 30 years is complete.

The experienced Storm coach edged out Bennett - who was won premierships at both the Broncos and Dragons as well as coaching the Maroons, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and England - to wrap up the Simply the Best campaign.

After voting for their favourite player in each position over the last nine weeks, the best team of the last 30 years has been finalised.

A great mix of former greats and current players fill put a team that would prove very difficult to beat.

NRL.com launched the search for the Simply The Best players from 1990 to now to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Tina Turner promotional campaign, which was again featured in this year's advertisement for the Telstra Premiership.

The NRL.com newsroom initially narrowed the race to be the best coach to a shortlist of 10.

Simply The Best coach nominees

(in alphabetical order)

Craig Bellamy

Bellamy has built a dynasty at the Melbourne Storm, and in terms of winning percentages is arguably the most successful coach of all time – his 68.6% win rate is the greatest of any coach with more than 30 matches to his name (he has 452), edging out the legendary Dragons, Eels and Sharks coach Norm Provan.

Craig Bellamy has built a dynasty at Melbourne.
Craig Bellamy has built a dynasty at Melbourne. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

His club was stripped of two premierships for salary cap breaches but went on to play in four more grand finals – winning two – and has won four minor premierships including three of the past four.

Along the way the Storm lost iconic players Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater and yet continued to be among the league's powerhouse clubs. At a club that rarely buys established stars Bellamy has helped turn promising youngsters into Hall of Famers and journeymen into representative players, and earned himself five Dally M Coach of the Year awards.

Wayne Bennett

The longest-serving mentor in the NRL and the only one with more than 500 wins as coach to his name, Bennett won six premierships with the Brisbane Broncos during the 1990s and 2000s and a seventh at the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2010.

Wayne Bennett with Gorden Tallis after the 1998 grand final.
Wayne Bennett with Gorden Tallis after the 1998 grand final. ©NRL Photos

Renowned as the best motivator and man manager in rugby league, he's also coached Newcastle, South Sydney, Queensland, Australia, England and Great Britain, and was assistant coach with New Zealand in their stunning 2008 World Cup win. To many, he's the best of the best.

Michael Hagan

Hagan became the first former Newcastle Knight to coach the club in 2001 and had immediate success, winning the premiership in his first season as coach despite the departure of key players such as Matthew Johns the previous year.

Newcastle club comrades Michael Hagan and Andrew Johns were on opposite sides of the state divide in 2005.
Newcastle club comrades Michael Hagan and Andrew Johns were on opposite sides of the state divide in 2005. ©NRL Photos

Hagan enjoyed winning records as coach of the Knights and then Parramatta, also coaching Queensland at State of Origin level in 2004 and 2005. He's more recently been a key part of the brains trust behind two superstar rep teams, as Mal Meninga's assistant with the Maroons during their record-breaking reign of Origin dominance and then a similar role with the Kangaroos.

Des Hasler

After a quiet period for the once powerful Manly club in the early 2000s, Hasler took the reins and made them a premiership force again – taking them to seven straight finals series and winning two premierships.

Manly coach Des Hasler.
Manly coach Des Hasler.

The coach dubbed "the mad scientist" delivered similar consistency to the Bulldogs from 2012, taking the club from ninth to first on the ladder to start a run of five straight years in the top eight (including two grand final appearances).

Last year he returned to coach a Manly side with low expectations which went on to suffer a horror injury toll – and yet played their way into the finals yet again.

Phil Gould

An immediate success story as coach, Gould led the Bulldogs to a premiership in his first season in charge in 1988, then led Penrith to back-to-back grand finals and a title in 1991.

A year later he took over as NSW coach and won three straight State of Origin series, bowing out as Blues coach after a clean sweep in 1996.

Phil Gould talks tactics at Blues training with Paul Harragon in 1995.
Phil Gould talks tactics at Blues training with Paul Harragon in 1995. ©NRL Photos

After a stint at the Roosters more Origin glory followed with two series wins and a draw in the early 2000s.

Michael Maguire

After a successful reign coaching the Wigan Warriors in England, Maguire became coach of a Rabbitohs team that had plenty of new stars but had played in one finals series since 1989.

Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire.
Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Success quickly followed, with Madge's Bunnies finishing reaching the preliminary finals twice before a drought-breaking grand final win in 2014. He became New Zealand coach in 2018, helping the team to wins over Australia and Great Britain, and has coached the Wests Tigers for the past two seasons.

Trent Robinson

Teams don't win back-to-back premiers in the modern NRL era. Or at least they didn't, until Robinson's Roosters broke the mould in 2018 and 2019 – and they remain favourites to do the threepeat in 2020.

Trent Robinson after the 2019 grand final.
Trent Robinson after the 2019 grand final. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

After two years at Catalans Dragons Robinson took on the Roosters coaching job at the age of 35, becoming the youngest winner of the Dally M Coach of the Year award as the Tricolours won the minor and major premiership. Now with three grand final wins and four minor premierships to his name, he's quickly established himself as one of the best tactical minds in the sport.

Tim Sheens

One of the most successful coaches of the modern era, with 669 matches across four clubs plus 31 Tests as Kangaroos coach, Sheens won the Dally M Coach of the Year at three clubs (Penrith in 1984, Canberra in 1990, Wests Tigers in 2005).

Tim Sheens and Ricky Stuart celebrate the 1990 grand final win.
Tim Sheens and Ricky Stuart celebrate the 1990 grand final win. ©NRL Photos

He led the Raiders to their first three premierships and coached the Tigers to their first as a joint venture in '05, becoming Australia coach in 2009 and holding the position for six years.

Brian Smith

A coach who reached four grand finals with three different clubs – two with St George and one each with Parramatta and the Roosters.

Eels coach Brian Smith in 2004.
Eels coach Brian Smith in 2004. ©NRL Photos

Smith won the Dally M Coach of the Year award twice, first after mentoring the 2001 Eels to one of the most dominant regular season records ever, and then after taking the 2010 Roosters from the wooden spoon to the grand final in a season.

Ricky Stuart

A premiership-winner in his first season as coach of the Roosters in 2002, Stuart started his coaching career with three straight grand final appearances.

2002 grand final-winning Roosters coach Ricky Stuart.
2002 grand final-winning Roosters coach Ricky Stuart. ©NRL Photos

After stints at the Sharks and Eels he returned to the club where he made his name as a superstar halfback, taking Canberra from bottom-eight also rans to second place on the ladder in 2016 and grand finalists in 2019.