Kelly Egan has been appointed as the inaugural chief executive of the coaches union as clipboard holders head into the upcoming season with a united voice for the first time.
The Rugby League Coaches Association has officially been formed, 18 years after the AFL established a union that has gone on to become a powerful stakeholder in their game.
The Sun-Herald can reveal Egan has been tasked with running rugby league's version, an entity the NRL supports and helped establish. Egan has a long history in rugby league across numerous roles; he was Des Hasler's right-hand man as an assistant at Canterbury and Manly and has previously been the general manager of football at the Cowboys and Wests Tigers.
The former Junior Kangaroos coach will report to a board that includes chairman Mal Meninga and fellow directors Neil Henry, Cynthia Gillespie, Tim Fuller and Stefanee Lovett. Egan's appointment was unveiled to club coaches and chief executives during last weekend's Nines tournament.
"The first part of it is letting everyone know we're alive and running," Egan said. "We're appreciative of the collaboration agreement we have with the NRL, we'll both get some positive engagement and outcomes as a result of that.
"The main [objectives] for us is ensuring we have a standard of collaboration with the game. The second part of it is making sure we get some good opportunities around advice, support and professional development for all of our membership.
"We'd like to think we're a pretty good target for some commercial people who might want to get involved in what we're doing and what we can offer from an intellectual property and man-management leadership perspective.
"The model that is in place in the AFL is a very strong model and we've had some engagement with those guys, which is helpful.
"For us it's not so much about a power base right now, it's about contextualising what we can do for our membership and build for the game in the short term.
"It's about making sure we can continue to grow that moving forward."
Head coaches, their assistants and full-time pathways staff are expected to become members before the 2020 season starts, making the RLCA a powerful new stakeholder group. Whether it eventually becomes as strong as the AFL Coaches Association remains to be seen.
"It's a really good model that has 18 years of practice," Egan said of his AFL counterparts. "At the back end of last year, Paul McGregor and Ivan Cleary ducked off on a professional development tour with the AFL coaches association, which they got a lot out of and enjoyed.
"We want to perpetuate that relationship going forward and trying to get to that level ourselves will be really good."
There are likely to be a number of pressing issues for the association to address. The NRL is keen to end the practice of agents being able to manage players and coaches because of the potential conflicts of interest that arise. The issue is set to be even more topical given the NRL is poised to make a call - potentially as early as this week - on several influential managers who have been handed breach notices.
There is also the issue of whether there should be a switch to player-like anti-tampering rules to ensure the coaching merry-go-round that dominated the 2018 off-season isn't repeated.
Egan said the RLCA was looking forward to engaging collaboratively with the NRL over the key issues.
"There's a number of considerations around what the NRL would like and also what we'd like to do as well," he said. "We'd like to think we'd like to have a good conversation around that."