Phil Blake (front) playing for South Sydney in 1989.

Phil Blake (front) playing for South Sydney in 1989. Photo: Greg White

Manly coach Phil Blake is first to be named as a head coach of one of the teams in this year's inaugural National Rugby Championship.

The former rugby league player has been handed a two year appointment as head coach of the North Harbour Rays that will incorporate the Manly, Warringah, Gordon and Northern Suburbs Shute Shield clubs for the nine-team third tier competition that starts August 23.

Blake will have the coaches of his rival 'north of the bridge' clubs as assistants in Haig Sare, whose first-placed Warringah side will face Manly in a top of the table Shute Shield clash at Manly Oval on Saturday, Scott Fava from Norths, and Geoff Townsend from Gordon.

Fava's role will be to look after the Rays' forwards, while Sare will coach the backs and Townsend will specialise on skills and defence.

The coaching line-up was selected by former World Cup winning coach Rod Macqueen, former Wallabies halfback Peter Carson and the Rays' chairman Gary Flowers.

With the coaching line-up being announced on Friday, the Rays intend to unveil in coming weeks their logo, playing jersey, a major sponsor and their home venue.

“We’ve come a long way in a short space of time and the appointment of Phil and his coaching team is a major step in the right direction and lays the foundation for our success in the inaugural seasons of the NRC,” Flowers said in a statement.

“Right from the get go, all four clubs felt that they needed to be part of this new competition and a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes since the competition was announced.

“The time frame to get this venture up and running and making sure that we touch all levels of our (rugby) community has been tight, but with these appointments, I feel that a major building block has been put in place.”

Blake, who announced his retirement from rugby league in 1998 and ended with 278 NRL games and 138 tries to his credit, said he was excited about his next challenge.

“I’m the guy that has the head coach title, but this is very much a team effort on the coaching front and we are all excited about bringing all the elements together that make a successful rugby team,” Blake said.

“It’s funny working closely with guys that you are coaching against like I will be against Haig this weekend, but we’re all excited about the opportunities that this competition offers.

“We’re keen to stay one step ahead and in coming weeks we’ll be working hard on where we feel the Rays can find a sustainable competitive advantage. The hard yakka has only just begun."