Premiership beckons for Ryles as NRL coach in waiting

As unlikely as it seems, the quest to finally win a premiership all started in Portugal.

Still overcoming the disappointment of last year’s NRL grand final loss, one of Illawarra’s finest products – the now Melbourne Storm assistant coach – was trading secrets with the England rugby union coach Eddie Jones.

Storm front: Jason Ryles. Picture: AAP Image/Julian Smith

Storm front: Jason Ryles. Picture: AAP Image/Julian Smith

Ryles is ear-marked as a future NRL coach, though he has always maintained he’s happy to bide his time working with Craig Bellamy.

With the England rugby camp in January, Ryles was on a ‘development tour’, designed to swap notes on building better defensive structures.

The Storm have rarely had any trouble keeping rivals at bay, but a 30-nil shutout of Brisbane in the preliminary final is an ominous reminder of their ability to strangle teams.

Whatever Ryles gained from the European study trip, he’s due for a premiership. His history of near-misses has been written a number of times.

Having made his NRL debut with the Dragons in 2000, Ryles suffered the preliminary final heartbreak of 2005 and 2006.

Wayne Bennett moved Ryles on at the end of 2008, which resulted in the Australian and NSW prop being on the other side of the field when the Dragons broke their title drought in 2010.

Even though he played a major role in getting them there, a hamstring injury prevent the now 38-year-old from playing in Melbourne’s 2012 premiership.

“It is [shattering] for us but more for him personally,” Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said before the grand final.

“That's the main reason he came down here, to claim a premiership, and this was a great opportunity for him.”

Ryles was captain-coach at Wests when they lost the Illawarra grand final to Helensburgh. Then he was in the coaching box with Bellamy last year when Cronulla finally claimed the crown at ANZ Stadium.

Luckless. 

Until now, perhaps.

It will be halfback Cooper Cronk’s last for the Storm and a chance to avenge last year. There’s hardly a shortage of motivation.

“It is always in the back of your mind,” Ryles said, warning the Storm to “expect the unexpected”.

“It happened, it was disappointing at the time.

“We spoke about, at the start of pre-season, just putting ourselves in a position to perhaps be there again and the boys have done a really good job.”​

Home and away: Jason Ryles during his stint with Wests in the Illawarra competition. Picture: Andy Zakeli

Home and away: Jason Ryles during his stint with Wests in the Illawarra competition. Picture: Andy Zakeli