Dean Lonergan: More guts please

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The free-spending ways of the former chairman of the New Zealand Rugby League Andrew Chalmers were made apparent at the league's annual meeting last weekend.

It is an issue that faces all sports and league has been through this before with another former NZRL chairman, Graham Carden, and the former chief executive of the Warriors, Ian Robson.

When an entrepreneurial chairman or chief executive takes what seems to be complete control they can often be seen as the saviour - Dr Jekyll in the early days, then later when their free-spending ways get the game in trouble they turn into Mr Hyde. The results can be hard to swallow for the grass roots of the game.

What sticks in my craw about Chalmers is that when the going got tough, he didn't stick around to fix things. Making mistakes is human, not fixing them is gutless and the fact the chairman and three other directors have since resigned and left the mess for someone else to clean up is truly gutless.

The fortunate thing for league is that there are a couple of men on the board who I would describe as steadying hands and while they won't make radical changes, they will get the job done - I'm referring to new chairman Ray Haffenden and former board member John Bray. League runs in their veins and they have already got the buckets working on saving the Titanic.

There will be a better outcome for the NZRL than there was for the ocean liner. Staff numbers have been cut, the decision to bring in a chief executive who will be answerable to the board and be the face of the game is a great move.

Now it is a matter of getting the right person in that role, someone who is inventive, trustworthy, brilliant at generating revenue and even better at containing spending.

I'd also like to see more firepower brought to the board. Three names that spring immediately to mind are Peter Leitch the "Mad Butcher", former Kiwi Mark Bourneville and another ex-player in Mike Patton. These three guys are self-made millionaires and they did it through sheer hard work and by sticking rigidly to business principles. They are the sort of people who can help our game out.

To the Warriors' capitulation on Monday night - for me it underlined how much they miss the leadership of Steve Price, the silky skills of Jerome Ropati and the sheer brilliance of Wade McKinnon. I semi-expected this sort of collapse against the Eels the previous weekend because Price's leadership is invaluable. I fear that we may be headed back to the old days of inconsistency, when the fans don't know which team will turn up - the Warriors of much flair, the smooth Dr Jekyll, or Mr Hyde, who is ugly in everything he does. I believe the next three weeks will determine where the team is at. Any side that loses three players of the calibre of Price, Ropati and McKinnon would struggle.

It is a matter of how the rest react and replace them. One can only hope that it's Dr Jekyll who shows up on Sunday against Newcastle because it won't take many appearances from Mr Hyde to chase the support away.

It's a simple fix for the Warriors this weekend: Hang on to the ball and stop missing so many tackles. League ain't rocket science.

- NZ Herald

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