Paul Lewis on sport

Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: Coaching saga a disaster for club

11 comments
New Warriors coach Matthew Elliott. Photo / Getty Images
New Warriors coach Matthew Elliott. Photo / Getty Images

It's a shame the Warriors didn't unveil new coach Matt Elliott at their recent prizegiving. If they had, they could have awarded themselves a new trophy - The Most Puzzling Coaching Appointment Saga Ever.

It arcs back to the day of that press conference in July where owners Eric Watson and Owen Glenn said their goal was to make the Warriors the most successful club in the NRL and the most successful franchise in Australasia.

It continued soon after when the Warriors iced Brian McClennan with only two games of the season to go and then were perceived to promise a "marquee coach" for the club.

Whatever Elliott is and in spite of his heroics in getting the Canberra Raiders to the finals four years out of five between 2002-2006, he is not perceived as such by many.

By any measurement and certainly in PR terms, the Ivan Cleary-McClennan-Elliott roundabout has been a disaster for the club.

They could have sweated it out with McClennan until the end of the season, quietly searching for a replacement in the off-season, without all the attendant publicity garnered by sacking him.

CEO Wayne Scurrah's "marquee coach" and the "best franchise" sentiments are examples of how the club is being seen to over-promise and under-deliver - not a persuasive tactic for fans, season tickets and corporate backers.

Even as the club struggled to put a positive face on the fact that Craig Bellamy is not the Warriors' coach, Scurrah came out with this statement at the announcement of Elliott as coach: "Matthew Elliott was the only person we wanted."

There may be some difference between this statement and what actually happened. The fact Elliott applied for the job rather than being approached by the Warriors and the fact he said before his appointment that he hadn't heard from them for a while rather tends to suggest other contenders were in the picture. But the real damage in those words is the fact the Warriors seemed to regard their audiences as gullible bumpkins.

Insiders say there is a change in the culture of the club since the Cleary days. Some say Cleary was treated badly in the build-up to his departure to Penrith and did not get the contract he deserved. That episode also marked a power change - director-behind-the-scenes John Hart left the club because of the Cleary departure. Scurrah had enhanced authority. McClennan came in, the club's 2011 Grand Final appearance soon seemed to be some faraway wonder, McClennan went out and Scurrah headed up the coach chase. He did a remarkable job in keeping matters quiet. One wag suggested that if the Warriors' 2013 defence was as tight as Scurrah's security, then they wouldn't have any problems.

But such secrecy carries a cost. Theories and rumours abound and most of those were harmful to the Warriors as they failed to find their marquee coach. When it became obvious that Bellamy was not arriving, disappointment ruled; some bitter comments were passed by fans. The longer they took and the longer it became apparent the club were not getting what they wanted, the worse they looked.

Scurrah has said only one of the contenders for coach withdrew. But here's a list of those who will not be coaching the Warriors - and never mind who rang who and who withdrew or were told they didn't have the job: Bellamy, Tony Iro, Stephen Kearney, Tim Sheens, Justin Morgan, Shane Flanagan and David Kidwell.

This newspaper heard from sources close to the club that Kidwell and Elliott were due to be named as coach and director of football respectively last week - and said so, even though there was other good information that said Bellamy was still a prospect. We then heard that Kidwell's and Elliott's impending appointment had been advised to the players but Kidwell later pulled out.

Scurrah denied that and he may well be right, given the surprise Kiwis Warriors players expressed when they were told of Elliott's appointment in Australia. Kidwell's official explanation was that it had taken too long and there wasn't enough time left before pre-season training. The Warriors countered that Kidwell hadn't withdrawn, he'd been told he didn't get the job. The Herald on Sunday understands money, not timing, may have been the deal-breaker and the "withdrawal" explanation was a face-saver.

The danger of finding a coach this way is clear. It's rumour, surrounded by mystery, wrapped in speculation, covered with half-truths and outright fictions. It's confusing and can damage credibility.

There is an art to such a tricky process and part of it is to use the media to lead the debate and prepare the ground for the conclusion. The problem with keeping the lid on a secret is it can grow exceedingly heavy and makes an even bigger mess of your fingers when it slams shut.

- Herald on Sunday

Your views

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 23 Aug 2014 20:05:41 Processing Time: 1387ms