League: Back to the future again

By Andrew Alderson, Paul Lewis

Some reports say Tony Iro feels he has been mistreated. Photo / APN
Some reports say Tony Iro feels he has been mistreated. Photo / APN

Tony Iro said to be considering other clubs after coach decision, write Paul Lewis and Andrew Alderson

One of the first priorities for new coach Matthew Elliott will be to help keep Tony Iro - the man the players preferred - at the Warriors.

There is now be a real chance that Iro will leave the club, even though Elliott has been reported as saying he wants him to stay and that the assistant coach's job is Iro's if he wants it. Elliott has also said he wants two assistant coaches and has someone else in mind for the other slot.

Elliott says: "I look forward to working with Tony. I won't be inhibiting his ability. I will be empowering him to carry on. If we put humility aside for a moment too, I've assisted five or six guys to go on to be head coaches."

Being passed over for the top job is one thing but insiders say that Iro has had to exist in an information-free zone as the coaching appointment was made around him. Some say he thinks he has been treated poorly in the process.

The Herald on Sunday also understands that Iro has offers from other NRL clubs and from the UK - and could now be considering another job, especially if the assistant's space is to be shared with someone else.

But it may be important for unity at the club for the Warriors to keep Iro, popular as he is with the players, and the club may be prepared to throw some of their cash at him to persuade him to stay. Money would seem to be their major weapon, that and the loyalty that Iro and the current players have to each other. However, the Warriors may struggle if Iro is unhappy with how he has been handled during the whole coaching saga.

He would again be effectively an assistant to Elliott, no matter what new title may be bestowed on him, and that may seem to him as if he is an apprentice whose apprenticeship will never end at the Warriors. A fresh club, even as an assistant coach, would at least offer the career path Iro desires.

There is a further probable departure which could create waves among the player base - high performance manager/skills coach/head trainer Craig Walker is reportedly on his way out of the Warriors. Rightly or wrongly, Walker appears to have borne some of the burden for the Warriors' perceived lack of conditioning under previous coach Brian McClennan.

The problem for the club is that Walker, like Iro, is highly regarded by the current Warriors players.

Overblown reports from Australia had Elliott walking into a "player revolt". While that is highly unlikely, the players were surprised and discomfited by news of Elliott's appointment and Walker's probable loss.

It was clearly a surprise to Warriors player Elijah Taylor when an Australian reporter asked for his reaction to the news of Elliott's appointment a day before the announcement. Taylor - and others - were expecting Iro to get the job.

Elliott thus has an interesting job to keep the dressing room onside, especially as some reports of his earlier coaching career maintain he lost the dressing room at Penrith. Other sources say the Roosters were not sorry to see him go from the assistant's job there.

Meanwhile, Elliott's unveiling on Friday brought to mind the image of an iceberg. It gave the impression only around 10 per cent of the whole coaching appointment escapade could be seen above the surface. The remainder was hidden in opaque depths. The conference also had an impenetrable surface if responses to questions were an indication. Little was given away by the fronting trio of co-owner Owen Glenn, chief executive Wayne Scurrah and Elliott.

Matters took on a touch of the surreal from the outset. Scurrah's opening address said, "contrary to reports in the newspaper, Matthew was not the last man standing, he was the person we wanted and the person we got at the end of the process. Media were picking a different guy every day - we got the guy we wanted though."

"We didn't want to leave a stone unturned ... he (Elliott) was probably not, um, ah, ah, a leading candidate at the start ... because no-one was. Then we had the first interview and progressively whittled down the list.

"We met every player, took their views on board and consulted with the captain, but this is not a players' choice. This is a choice the club must drive, the board, the owners and senior management. We've got to be in charge and make an appointment for the whole club, not just the squad at the time."

- Herald on Sunday

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