Justis Kamu looks at the standout issues in the NRL from the past week including why the Warriors should splash out on Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
1. Bellamy the top coaching target
The sacking of Brian McClennan as Warriors coach has left the club on the verge of a defining moment. Co-owners Owen Glenn and Eric Watson declared last month that they were willing to invest 'whatever it takes' over the next five years for the club to become the single best sporting franchise in Australasia.
The time has arrived for the pair to do just that. Precisely, open up their oversized wallets and chase an NRL experienced and powerhouse coach. With strong emphasis on the words 'experienced' and 'powerhouse', the pair shouldn't look past Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
While Bellamy's current contract expires in 2013, he has delayed talks of a contract renewal with the Storm to the end of the current campaign. This presents an opportune window for the Auckland club to test his resolve to stay in Victoria beyond next season.
Although many observers may be rolling their eyes at the prospect of 'Bellyache' even considering NZ as a viable coaching destination. Money speaks several languages and with plenty of that in the Warriors coffers, Bellamy would be the most important signing in the club's history above Steve Price's capture.
With no salary cap placed on a coach's earnings, the club have the financial clout to offer A$1m-2m a season for his services - the going rate for a top line coach. Various commentators have plugged Stephen Kearney, Tony Iro, Daniel Anderson and even David Kidwell as potential successors to McClennan.
Come on! These pretenders aren't going to energize Warriors Nation or propel the club to achieve their master plan. Bellamy is one of only a few coaches who can turn this under-performing bunch into title winners in his first season. Just look at the force the Storm have developed into since he took over the coaching reign in 2002.
Even with two championships stripped from their trophy cabinet due to salary cap breaches. He's been able to regularly churn out a well drilled team built on tough defence/wrestle and astute attacking strategy based around his big three. His ability to blood youngsters, up-skill journeyman and fine tune the play of veterans raises the former NSW coach into the top echelon of rugby league coaches.
Players, fans/members and sponsors of the Warriors club are disappointingly low after this year's giant plunge from last year's grand final high. The coaching appointment for 2013 and beyond is extremely crucial to ensuring that they all buy-in to Glenn and Watson's optimism about the club's future.
Securing a coach of Bellamy's calibre would go a long way to guaranteeing that the faith of all three stakeholders remains strong in a vision that is truly attainable and not merely a promotional dream.
2. Daley wins NSW coaching job
On a huge news day for the NRL with Brian McClennan's dismissal, Dragons captain Ben Hornby announcing his retirement and the signing of the A$1.025 billion dollar broadcast rights deal. Laurie Daley's appointment as coach of New South Wales for the next two State of Origin series flew under the radar somewhat.
The former player, captain, assistant coach and selector of the Blues has no NRL coaching experience but surprisingly beat out Daniel Anderson, Brad Fitter (both former NRL coaches) and Trent Barrett to the NSW coach's hot-seat.
Daley, a veteran of 23 NSW games, says coaching Country Origin, the Indigenous All Stars, and his involvement with numerous Origin camps combines as sufficient experience for the role.
While he was a champion player, he's going to have his work cut out for him to usurp Mal Meninga's claim to make it eight straight Origin series wins. In saying that his knowledge of the game is second to none and his passion for Origin is on par with his Maroons counterpart.
Daley's appointment may not have been declared with much fanfare. However NSW look to be happily approaching next year's series with the underdog tag. That will appropriately suit a coach and state that is desperate to end an embarrassing seven year Origin drought.
3. The power of the little man
Every sport has a little man in their game who defies all their physical deficiencies to come to be figures of inspiration and dominance.
Soccer has Barcelona's Lionel Messi, basketball's equivalent is Chris Paul, tennis' Spaniard Rafael Nadal, and in cricket the masterful Sachin Tendulkar. Ben Barba is now the bearer of that mantle for rugby league after a standout season in 2012. Standing at five feet ten (177cm), Barba probably won't get on the rollercoaster at most theme parks because of his slight height.
Although what he lacks in size, the Mackay product makes up for in an abundance of agility, evasiveness, speed and tricky. His run out of the backfield after 16 minutes to instigate a length of the field try for Josh Reynolds was hold your breath type stuff.
These attributes have allowed him to excel in a game characteristically reserved for the athleticism, physique and power of giant like sportsman. A certainty for the Dally M medal with two rounds remaining, Barba's game has skyrocketed this season to a new level. With two rounds remaining till the post season, the Bulldogs will be banking on their pocket sized fullback to lead their quest for the NRL title from the backfield.
4. Where to from here Bluey?
Was Brian McClennan ousted too soon? Should he have seen out the final year of his two year deal? Did he have enough support to do the job effectively? They are a few queries that many will mull over as they reflect on 2012 Warriors season. So, where to from here for the former Kiwis coach?
Super League clubs could call again for the former 2008-2009 Leeds coach, however after moving back to New Zealand for family reasons that door remains only partially open. It's likely that the door has firmly shut on Bluey coaching again in the NRL.
Unlike the majority of NRL coaches who learned the ropes, serving as an assistant, Bluey's coaching education was instilled through the New Zealand domestic scene with the Mt Albert Lions and Hibuscus Coast before his Kiwis Four Nations triumph. His poor record this season coupled with his lack of Toyota Cup or first grade involvement means we have probably seen the last of him.
It's at the domestic level where the prospects for McClennan seem brighter. He's well-liked in the rugby league community, and has already volunteered plenty of time and effort to benefit the grassroots game. A role with Auckland Rugby League (his former employers) or New Zealand Rugby League (assuming they can fit him in) would suit the skills of a man who is an accomplished figure in the local game.
5. Your comments
What is the point having a feeder club, if they get overlooked for "Under 20" players. I feel for the Vulcans, their dream is to make the Warriors, but when you get overlooked so blatantly makes you question your loyalty to a club thats not giving back. Examples of ex Vulcans turned NRL this year Matt Robinson (Penrith) James Gavet (Bulldogs).
- The Warriors can only contract 25 players under the A$4.4 m salary cap. All other players that play NRL in the current year must fit under a $350,000 Salary Cap. To keep the wage bill down, most clubs are likely to elect players from the 'top 25' to play first grade and save that extra money for exceptional circumstances. Vulcans players not in the NRL squad are unlikely to break into the big time because of the above reasons. Unless one has a standout season, they should use the NSW Cup to advertise their playing skills to NRL/Super League scouts. Despite being in the Warriors top 25, Gavet and Robinson were both standout performers for the Vulcans earning their Bulldogs and Panthers contracts this way.
What is Manu captaining for? That is half the Warriors' problem just now.
A man famous for his brain explosions and handling errors cannot lead. That requires example. He no longer outweighs his errors with his brilliance. Send him to the Bulldogs with Inu. Please!
- If you want to let Vatuvei go, the Super League would be the ideal place to send him. There are many who want to see the back of Vatuvei, however a transfer to an opposition NRL side wouldn't be the smartest move. The Warriors would still have the prospect of trying to stop him two/three times a year, which is easier said than done. Plus under Des Hasler's guidance Vatuvei would be a far superior player than what we have seen of him at the Warriors. You only have to look at Inu's performances since he joined the Bankstown club for proof of that.
Kiwi in Perth
This says to me the Warriors keep changing the side, letting players go , bringing players in. The side is never settled. Combinations never seem to last a year. The Warriors need to spend large to get a quality five-eighth and centre, not sure how Dane Nielsen is at centre, but I know that Thomas Leuluai is the answer, he will be short of pace.
- Nielsen is a Queensland State of Origin centre who has played over 70 games in his career since 2007. He's a tidy player, pacey, great leap and strong on defence. He was bought by the club to seal the gap left open by Inu's departure. Whilst he is a quality centre, he isn't in the elite category of NRL centres. Curious to see how the Maroons back performs in the Warriors environment. Will he still be Origin material without the big three?
6. Team of the Week - Round 24
1. Fullback - Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles)
2. Wing - Sisa Waqa (Storm)
3. Centre - Kane Linnett (Cowboys)
4. Centre - Krisnan Inu (Bulldogs)
5. Wing - Travis Robinson (Panthers)
6. Five eighth - Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs)
7. Halfback - Sam Williams (Raiders)
8. Prop - David Shillington (Raiders)
9. Hooker - Cameron Smith (Storm)
10. Prop - Nate Myles (Prop)
11. Secondrow - Tony Williams (Sea Eagles)
12. Secondrow - Tyson Frizell (Sharks)
13. Lock - Shaun Fensom (Raiders)
Coach: Des Hasler (Bulldogs)