Warren Ryan

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Warren Redman Ryan is a former rugby league football coach and player from Sydney, Australia. He is considered as one of the most influential coaches in recent times.[1] Ryan also played 1st Grade Rugby League for the St George Dragons and Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.

He is now employed as a colour commentator by ABC Radio 702 for its Rugby League coverage. Ryan also regularly contributes opinion articles to the Brisbane Courier-Mail and Newcastle Herald.


Ryan was also an elite track and field athlete, representing Australia in the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in the Shot Put coming seventh in a field of sixteen with a throw of 51'8" (15.75m).[2] Ryan accredits his famous attention to detail in his coaching to his Czech-born track coach of this time.

Playing career[edit]


Ryan's first coaching appointment was as Captain-coach of Wests Wollongong. Ryan would lead this club to 1972 and 1974 premierships in the Illawarra Division.

Ryan's abilities soon came to the attention of Sydney clubs, always on the lookout for new coaching talent. Ryan was appointed U/23s coach of the Western Suburbs Magpies in 1978. After a slow start, Ryan soon turned around the structure of the team and became the first coach to reach a NSWRFL Premiership's Grand Final (in any grade) from 5th position, eventually losing the Grand Final.

Ryan was soon poached by John Singleton to mentor the listless Newtown Jets club. The club were perennial losers and with the club spiralling towards oblivion, Ryan would perform a veritable miracle in 1981, leading a rag-tag team to the Grand Final. Leading 11-7 deep into the second half, Ryan's Jets were eventually overrun 20-11 by a Parramatta Eels team that featured some of the 1980s greatest players. Ryan left Newtown at the end of the 1982 season.

While cooling his heels during the 1983 season, Ryan was approached by Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs administrator Peter Moore to take over from Ted Glossop for the 1984 season. After a series of clandestine carpark meetings near Belmore Boys High, Ryan agreed to take over the coaching of the Dogs.

Ryan immediately set about adding some 'starch' to the Bulldogs squad. Signing renowned hardmen Peter Kelly from the now defunct Newtown club and Peter Tunks from South Sydney, this front row pairing would provide the basis for three Bulldogs' premiership victories.

The Bulldogs set the pace from the outset of the 1984 season. Their team was based around a relentless defence and an uncompromising forward pack. Ryan theorized that to beat the skilful Parramatta Eels team, with their peerless backline, his team would need to outmuscle them. After winning the minor premiership, Ryan's Bulldogs claimed the 1984 premiership with a narrow 6-4 victory, denying the Eels a fourth straight premiership.

Ryan's 'Dogs of War' would repeat the dose in 1985 with a hard fought 7-6 victory over the St George Dragons in the decider. Ryan's tactics in this game of constantly bombing the St George fullback, Glenn Burgess, earned his team a number of repeat sets. So effective was this tactic, the NSWRL were compelled to change the rules of the game regarding catches on the full in the in-goal area.

This premiership victory was particularly sweet for Ryan, having overcome Roy Masters, his longtime coaching adversary.

It was in 1985 that Ryan's fractious coaching style came to light, with Rugby League Week detailing the feud between himself and team captain, Steve Mortimer. Effectively, the players were split into two camps: Ryan's outsiders and the family club's disciples.

The Bulldogs made their third consecutive Grand Final in 1986. They were desperately unlucky to lose 4-2 in the code's only ever tryless Grand Final. Ryan remained for the 1987 season, coaching the Bulldogs to 6th place, narrowly missing the finals series for the first time. Ryan soon thereafter departed the Bulldogs, signing on to coach the Balmain Tigers for the 1988 season. Under Ryan's coaching, Balmain made consecutive grand finals in 1988 against the Bulldogs and in 1989 against Canberra. But both would result in losses for the Tigers. Ryan stepped aside after the 1990 season.

He coached the Canterbury Bulldogs to three Grand Final appearances in four seasons between 1984 and 1987. He also coached the Newtown Jets, Balmain Tigers, Western Suburbs Magpies and the Newcastle Knights after an earlier career where he played for the St. George Dragons, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and represented Country NSW Origin.

With his record of two premierships and seven grand finals with three different teams in the 1980s Ryan is regarded as one of the great coaches of that era. His teams were known as excellent defenders and Ryan has been credited as the creator of the "umbrella" or "up and in" defensive style.

Many notable current and former first grade coaches including Phil Gould, David Waite, Tommy Raudonikis, Chris Anderson, Steve Folkes, Andrew Farrar, Wayne Pearce, Graham Murray, Paul Langmack, Terry Lamb, Michael Hagan and Peter Mulholland played in or coached under Ryan's 1st Grade sides. Most current NRL 1st Grade coaches can trace their coaching pedigree to either Warren Ryan or Brian Smith. Collectively, coaches of the 'Ryan lineage' account for eight premierships and fifteen grand final appearances since 1981, as well as seven State of Origin series victories and a Rugby League World Cup victory.

In 2008, the centenary year of rugby league in Australia, Ryan was named coach of the Newtown Jets 18-man team of the century.

Broadcaster and journalist[edit]

Ryan is currently a member of the ABC Grandstand rugby league commentary team; and, rather than calling the match play itself, he supplies special comments throughout the broadcast.

He proposed his own finals system, an alternative to McIntyre Final Eight and AFL, but it wasn´t accepted.


In April 2006 Ryan came to wider attention when his son, Matthew died of heart failure at age 24 following an overdose of the party drug, gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB).[3]


Coaching career[edit]

Preceded by
Johnny Raper
Newtown Jets

Succeeded by
Brian Moore
Preceded by
Ted Glossop
Canterbury Bulldogs

Succeeded by
Phil Gould
Preceded by
Bill Anderson
Balmain Tigers

Succeeded by
Alan Jones
Preceded by
John Bailey
Western Suburbs Magpies

Succeeded by
Wayne Ellis (caretaker) then
Tommy Raudonikis
Preceded by
Malcolm "Mal" Reilly
Newcastle Knights

Succeeded by
Michael Hagan