Jason Ryles breaks silence after Dragons coaching snub: 'Couldn't resist'

Pictured right is Jason Ryles and Craig Bellamy on the left.
Jason Ryles says the chance to rejoin Craig Bellamy's coaching staff was one he couldn't turn down. Pic: Getty

Jason Ryles has explained the reasons behind his bombshell decision to turn down the chance to coach his former club, the St George Illawarra Dragons. Ryles is a former premiership winner at the Red V and had been considered an almost un-backable favourite to succeed Anthony Griffin as the next head coach of the Dragons.

That was until Wednesday morning, when the shock news filtered through that the in-demand former Roosters assistant spurned the chance to coach the Dragons, and had agreed to move to the Melbourne Storm to become Craig Bellamy's assistant. The move appeared to rocket Ryles into favouritism to replace Bellamy when the veteran mentor likely finishes up coaching at the end of the 2024 season, before transitioning to a coaching director role in 2025.

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It's understood Ryles has not been guaranteed the Storm head coaching role when Bellamy does eventually step aside. However, the 44-year-old said the opportunity to return to a set-up where he'd already experienced great success - while continuing to learn from one of the game's greatest ever coaches - was one he simply "couldn't resist". Ryles won two premierships as an assistant to Bellamy between 2016 and 2020 and will join Melbourne for the 2024 pre-season, having been cut loose by the Roosters mid-year.

"It wasn't an easy decision to make but I am very comfortable knowing I am returning to Storm and can't wait to get back the club," Ryles said. "This was a decision I made with my family, and I know it will be best for my coaching growth and development.

"I have an enormous amount of respect for the club and couldn't resist the opportunity to return to work with Craig, (GM of Football) Frank (Ponissi) and the football department when it was presented." The decision leaves fellow Dragons greats Ben Hornby and Dean Young among the most likely candidates for the head coaching role at St George Illawarra.

"It was just about the timing and it not quite being the right fit," Webb told AAP. "We had a process in place and there were other candidates. We'll now go back and proceed with that."

From left to right, Jason Ryles and Anthony Griffin.
Jason Ryles (L) was regarded as the raging favourite to take over Anthony Griffin's NRL head coaching role at the Dragons until he pulled out of the race. Pic: Getty

Dragons coaching saga takes another twist

The Dragons had been wanting to unveil a new coach in the next week to give the successful appointee ample time to work on the roster ahead of his first season in charge. There is hope that having a highly rated coach on the books imminently can entice players to the Dragons, who have struggled to lure marquee talent on the back of four consecutive seasons out of the finals.

"There's that piece when you're looking to extend current players," Webb said. "It's also getting to this period in the current NRL season where player movement opportunities start to present.

"You've also got to manage your cap, you can't go bringing in players that a new coach doesn't think fits his system or his style. It's one about retaining what you've got but two about opportunities, and you want to be able to take advantage when the right one presents."

Fox League reporter James Hooper said on Wednesday that Ryles had knocked back an $800,000-a-season, four-year deal with the Dragons worth a staggering $3.2 million. The report says Ryles was on the verge of accepting the Dragons offer on Monday morning, before performing a huge U-turn by Wednesday after agreeing to re-join the Storm.

South Sydney assistant Hornby and North Queensland's Young are now jostling to coach the club where they won the 2010 premiership alongside Ryles.

with AAP

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