Ange Postecoglou. PHOTO: Celticfc.com

With the success of Ange Postecoglou at Celtic, The Inner Sanctum takes a deep dive into the history books to work out the greatest Australian coaches of all time.

With the success of Ange Postecoglou in his first season at Celtic after making the move to European football, The Inner Sanctum took a deep dive into the history books to work out the greatest Australian coaches of all time across all sports, and then narrow it down into a Top 10 list.

Ange Postecoglou

Ange Postecoglou has been the greatest men’s football coach to come out of Australia. 

Starting his head coaching career with South Melbourne in 1996, the team he played his entire career for, Postecoglou won back-to-back NSL titles in the 1997/98 seasons and 1998/99 seasons, and the 1999 Oceania Club Championship.

Postecoglou would leave South Melbourne to coach the Australian U17’s and U20’s, from 2000 until 2005 and 2007.

When he took the Brisbane Roar job in 2009, he cleared out most of the squad which would prove to be a successful undertaking as the Roar would go onto win back to back championships in 2010/11 and 2011/12 to accompany the premiers plate from the 2010/11 season, and a 36 game streak where the Roar did not lose a game.

After a brief stint at the Melbourne Victory, Postecoglou would move onto the Australian national team job, where Australia would win the 2015 Asian Cup on home soil, with Postecoglou resigning after qualifying Australia for the 2018 World Cup due to ongoing external pressure, and the toll it took on him personally.

Moving on to Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Postecoglou would become the first Australian coach to win the J-League in the 2019 season after struggling in his first season as coach.

Prior to the 2021/22 season, Postecoglou would move to Celtic on a 12-month contract, with a lot of pundits in Scotland questioning the decision, with Celtic needing a rebuild of sorts after a trophy-less 2020/21 season for the first time in over a decade.

Postecoglou would go on to prove the doubters wrong, securing the Scottish Premier League title, giving him domestic titles on three different continents as a coach.

Wayne Bennett

Success has followed Wayne Bennett almost everywhere he has coached over his nearly 5 decade coaching career. With multiple stints at the Brisbane Broncos (winning six premierships), St George Illawarra (winning one premiership), the Newcastle Knights, and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at club level, he has been a feature of the domestic game at the highest level since 1987.

Wayne Bennett and Josh Kerr. Source: QRL www.qrl.com.au

Bennett has also had significant success at a representative level, coaching the Queensland Maroons to multiple series wins, multiple stints with Australia, and stints with both England and Great Britain. 

As a coach, Bennett has never been afraid to make the tough decisions in order to get the best out of his teams, which is why he has been able to have longevity in Rugby League, and was a no brainer hiring decision for the Dolphins as they enter the NRL in 2023.

Craig Bellamy

Having learnt under Wayne Bennett, it is a no brainer that Craig Bellamy would also make this list. Having coached the Melbourne Storm since 2003, Bellamy has only missed the finals once, which was in 2010 when the club was punished for salary cap breaches. 

Craig Bellamy at Storm training. Photo: melbournestorm.com.au

While Bellamy was unable to replicate the success at a representative level, having disappointing performances as coach of the Country Origin team, and New South Wales, the longevity at one team in the Storm, matched only by Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos, is a testament to the coaching style of Bellamy. 

It is also a testament to the ability of Bellamy to adapt to rule changes, player turnover, external factors such as COVID-19, and the different tactics required over the years due to the way the game has changed, yet still being able to find success, that will see Bellamy go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time. 

Johnny Lewis

Jeff Fenech. Jeff Harding. Kostya Tszyu. 

Some of the greats inside a boxing ring who all have been part of the Australian boxing scene at one time or another.

The name that ties them all together? 

Johnny Lewis.

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One of Australia’s most acclaimed boxing coaches, who has trained and coached six world champions, Johnny Lewis has been around boxing since he was a teenager.

His introduction into coaching was not planned, but the sport can be forever grateful that Lewis ended up as a coach, and training some of the greats.

He would also find a way to revolutionise the way training was done in Australia, introducing target pads to his gym after a trip to Thailand and noticing the speed with which the Thai boxers moved at. 

While Australian boxing is currently going through an incredible purple patch at the moment, it will likely be a long time before Australian boxing has a coach again who reached the heights that Lewis did, which is a true testament to exactly how he was able to undertake his job.

Sandy Brondello

While Brondello may not be one of the more famous coaches that has ever come out of Australia in terms of crossover appeal, her record and success speaks for itself. 

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Sandy Brondello started her coaching career in 2005 with the San Antonio Silver Stars in the WNBA as an assistant, before becoming the head coach in 2010, making the playoffs in her first season.

After being replaced in the off-season, it would take until late-2013 for Brondello to get another head coaching job in the WNBA, this time with the Phoenix Mercury.

She never missed the playoffs during her time at the Mercury, winning the finals in her first year as coach, and winning the WNBA coach of the year award the same season.

After losing the in the WNBA Finals in 2021, Brondello and the Mercury mutually agreed to part ways, which would result in Brondello moving to the New York Liberty for the 2022 season.

Brondello also took over as coach of the Australian women’s basketball team in 2017, taking Australia to a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and a silver medal at the 2018 World Cup. 

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Leigh Matthews

After a stellar playing career, Leigh Matthews turned his attention to coaching immediately after retirement, and was just as successful a coach as he was as a player.

It would take until his fifth season in charge of Collingwood before the side would win the grand final, his only as coach of Collingwood before being sacked in 1995. 

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Coming out of coaching retirement in 1999, his biggest coaching achievement was leading the Brisbane Lions to three consecutive Grand Final victories in 2001, 2002, and 2003. He would also coach the Lions to a loss in the 2004 Grand Final, which would be the last time he’d coach in a grand final.

His coaching style has been described as strict but successful, and it is not hard to see why with all that he has achieved throughout his coaching career, with Matthews going down as one of the greatest to ever coach in the AFL. 

Lindsay Gaze

One of Australian basketball’s greatest as a player and a coach, the impact that Lindsay Gaze had on Australian basketball can not be understated.

As a coach, he would take the Boomers to the Olympics from 1972-1984, and the FIBA World Cup from 1974-1982, and then again in 1994. 

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In the NBL, he was the inaugural coach of the Melbourne Tigers and coached the team from the start of the league in 1984 until 2005.

He would win two championships as coach, in 1993 and 1997, and coach of the year three times in 1989, 1997, and 1999.

With inductions into multiple hall of fames in basketball and the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, it is clear that the positive impact Gaze had on the sport will never be forgotten.

Alastair Clarkson

Alastair Clarkson would join the Hawthorn Hawks in 2005 as they were going through a rebuild. It would take a couple of years for Clarkson’s appointment to pay off, with the team making the finals in 2007, and then going on to win the Grand Final in 2008.

From 2013-2015, Clarkson would coach Hawthorn to three consecutive premierships, an achievement only matched by Leigh Matthews at Brisbane since national expansion in the 1980’s.

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There are two key things you can look at when it comes to Clarkson (outside of the grand final success) that best demonstrate his long-standing excellence and stature as one of Australia’s all-time greatest coaches.

The first is that Clarkson knew when to walk away. There was a succession plan in place with Hawthorn to see out his contract despite poor results, but Clarkson chose to resign a year before that took place.

The second is how many of his former assistants who have gone on to coach in the league, and have premiership success with five straight grand final winning coaches being former assistants of Clarkson (Luke Beveridge in 2016, Damien Hardwick in 2017, 2019, and 2020, and Adam Simpson in 2018.)

When you combine those two things, plus his own individual success, it is not hard to see just why Clarkson is one of Australia’s all-time greatest coaches.

Trevor Gleeson

A five-time NBL champion with the Perth Wildcats and two-time NBL Coach of the year, Trevor Gleeson has left his mark on Australian basketball. 

After his first head coaching stint at Townsville ended in a return to Melbourne, and a stint at the Melbourne Tigers in which he was sacked after one season, the only time Gleeson has missed the finals during his time as a coach in the NBL, he found himself working as a skills coach for AFL sides North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

Departing Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson who is pursing an NBA coaching opportunity. (Photo: @PerthWildcats/Twitter).

While at Hawthorn, he was working with and learning from another coach on this list in Alastair Clarkson, who helped Gleeson develop an understanding of some of the coaching principles that were implemented during his time at the Wildcats and the success that came with that.

The move to the Wildcats in 2013 is where Gleeson really stamped his mark, winning the five championships from six grand final appearances in his eight years at the helm.

Currently working as an assistant coach in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors, the impact Gleeson had on the NBL and his time at the Wildcats will mean he goes down in the annals of history as one of Australia’s greatest coaches. 

Joe Montemurro

After spending his early coaching years at different teams around the state leagues across Victoria, and a single season in the Papua New Guinea Soccer League, where his side Port Moresby made the grand final and lost, Montemurro returned to Australia and took over the coaching reigns of the Melbourne Victory’s women’s squad, taking it to its highest placed finish in the regular season of 2nd place.

After just one season in the top job at the Victory, Montemurro jumped ship to cross-town rivals and expansion side Melbourne City, taking the side to the double, and becoming the first undefeated side in W-League history, before being moved to an assistant coaching role with the men’s squad during the 16-17 season.

Joe Montemurro takes over as head coach of Juventus Women. Photo: Juventus

Montemurro would make the move to Europe and join Arsenal in November 2017, winning the FA Women’s League Cup in his first season in charge, while also guiding the side to a loss in the FA Women’s Cup final.

In his second season in charge, he would guide Arsenal to the WSL title, and qualify Arsenal for the Champions League.

His departure would come at the conclusion of the 20-21 season, and he would make the move to Italy, becoming coach of Juventus’ women’s team, taking Juventus to the domestic treble by winning the Serie A, Coppa Italia, and Supercoppa Italiana in his first season.

While not as accomplished as other coaches on this list, he has coached at the top levels of women’s European football for a number of years, and maintained that position far longer than his equivalents in the men’s game, which is why Montemurro earns a spot on this list.   

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