IT should come as no surprise that Melbourne assistant coach Jason Ryles’ first reaction to Sunday’s grand final triumph was relief.
There’s no big-game environment the St George Illawarra great didn’t experience as a player, but grand final victories have proven elusive.
A three-time Dragons player of the year, Ryles was part the joint-venture’s consecutive prelim finals defeats in 2005-2006 and was in Roosters colours when his former club saluted in 2010.
An untimely hamstring injury kept him out of the Storm’s 2012 triumph while he had his first dose of heartbreak as a coach last season.
That run of outs ended in emphatic fashion in Sunday’s decider, as the Storm romped home 34-6 to claim the club’s third title.
It came on the back of another dominant display from the pack Ryles has overseen as forwards coach for the past two seasons.
“To be honest it’s just a relief,” Ryles said.
“After the season the boys have had, it was a relief to get through and finally play the way we know they can play.
“To watch the likes of Jesse [Bromwich] and Nelson [Asofa-Solomona] really improve over the last two years has been great. Guys like Kenny Bromwich and Dale Finucane and those guys have really matured into good footy players as well.
“They work so hard and it’s really satisfying to see them grow personally as men and as footy players and get the result they deserved.”
Ryles led his junior club Wests to a prelim and grand final in two years coaching in the Illawarra, but said he never expected the call from Craig Bellamy that brought him back to the club last season.
“I wouldn’t have imagined it in my wildest dreams so I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to come back again,” Ryles said.
“Timing’s everything in footy, I’ve been part of three out the last four grand finals with the Storm now, so I’ve really been very fortunate.”
His efforts in moulding the most dominant pack in the competition have seen him widely tipped as an NRL coach of the future, but he insists he’s in no hurry.
“I know what I want to do eventually but there’s a lot of time between now and stepping into that sort of role,” he said.
“I’m happy doing what I’m doing and I learn so much every time I come into work.
“I can’t imagine having a real job. Hopefully Bellyache goes another three or four years and I can stay here working under him for as long as I can.”