22nd April 2020, 13:50 | 125

#RFL125 Greatest Coach Contender | Mal Reilly OBE

#RFL125 Greatest Coach Contender | Mal Reilly OBE

Success in both hemispheres and on the international stage

The latest #RFL125 poll is now live and voting is open for the Greatest Coach!

There are five legendary coaches up for selection and the second is Mal Reilly OBE who enjoyed success in both hemispheres as well as on the international stage. 

Castleford Tigers

As a player, Reilly was a trailblazer of the British game, dominating Australian Rugby League, while also having great success with Castleford. 

Reilly’s success would continue into his coaching career at a number of clubs as well as on the international stage with Great Britain. Reilly remains the only person to win both the NRL Premiership and Challenge Cup as both a player and coach.

The Yorkshire-born Reilly took the reins at Castleford in 1974 following a successful spell with the club as a player which saw him win back-to-back Challenge Cups with the club in 1969 and 1970, with a Lance Todd Trophy winning performance in the former. 

As Head Coach, he would repeat the feat and lead the side to a Challenge Cup success in 1986. Castleford narrowly edged out Hull Kingston Rovers at Wembley Stadium thanks to tries from Bob Beardmore, Tony Marchant and Jamie Sandy.

This was Castleford’s fourth Challenge Cup success – and the third that Reilly had been involved with in some capacity. It remains Castleford’s most recent Challenge Cup triumph.

In 1984, Reilly guided Castleford to their first Premiership Final but the Tigers fell to a 10-18 defeat at the hands of Hull Kingston Rovers at Leeds’ Headingley Stadium.

Reilly also took Castleford to three Yorkshire Cup Finals of which they would win one in 1982 with a 10-5 victory over Bradford. Their two final defeats came against Leeds and Hull FC. They also won the League Cup – then known as Players No 6 Trophy - in 1977 with a 15-25 victory against Blackpool.

After 13 years in charge at The Jungle, Reilly would leave the club to succeed Maurice Bamford as Head Coach of Great Britain. 

Great Britain

Reilly led Great Britain in the 1988 Oceania Tour which saw them defeat Papua New Guinea and New Zealand but fall to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Australia in the Ashes Series.

The 26-12 victory in the third game of the Ashes Series at the Sydney Football Stadium saw Great Britain bring to an end their losing streak against the Kangaroos which stretched back to 1978, covering 15 games. 

In 1989, his Great Britain side would beat a touring New Zealand side before beating the Kiwis on their own patch in 1990, 2-1.

1990 saw Great Britain come within just ten minutes of winning their first Ashes Series since 1970 under Reilly’s stewardship. An opening test win at Wembley Stadium put the Rugby League Lions on track for a Series victory but Austria proved too strong. 

A record-breaking third Great Britain Rugby League tour as Head Coach would follow in 1992. Reilly’s men beat Papua New Guinea and New Zealand but ultimately fell to another 2-1 Ashes Series defeat to Australia. Great Britain’s victory would be their biggest ever over Australia, 33-10 in Melbourne, with Phil Clarke, Paul Newlove, Garry Schofield, Graham Steadman and Martin Offiah all scoring.

The Rugby League Lions’ victory over New Zealand ensured them a place in the 1992 Rugby League World Cup Final against Australia at Wembley Stadium. However, they were narrowly edged out by Australia once more with Steve Renouf scoring the only try in a 6-10 defeat.

Reilly’s tenure as Great Britain boss finished with 3-0 victories over France and New Zealand respectively in their 1993 European Tour. He would be succeeded by Ellery Hanley in 1994.

Newcastle Knights 

Reilly would venture Down Under – in a coaching capacity – in 1995 as he took control of Newcastle Knights and the club saw an immediate improvement in results. 

After 18 months of building, Reilly would guide the Knights to a 2nd place finish in the ARL, finishing just three points behind Minor Premiers Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.

Victories over Parramatta Eels and North Sydney Bears took Newcastle to their first-ever Grand Final in which they would beat Manly 16-22 at Sydney Football Ground with winger Darren Albert scoring a try under the posts with just seconds remaining. 

Leeds Rhinos/Huddersfield Giants/Hull Kingston Rovers

Following his time with Castleford, Reilly was appointed Leeds Rhinos Head Coach and guided them to a 3rd place finish however they would suffer defeat in the First Round of the Premiership Trophy. He did lift silverware with Leeds however in the form of the Yorkshire Cup. 

In 1999, Reilly took charge of Huddersfield Giants but couldn’t steer the club away from a 14th place finish.

Reilly returned to coaching in 2003 as Head Coach of Hull Kingston Rovers but would leave the club in 2004.