Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: Turmoil cost Kearney

Stephen Kearney. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Stephen Kearney. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Many a coach would love to win an NRL premiership or a World Cup or a State of Origin and, just like players, coaches dream about the delights and highs of being a professional coach.

Rarely do professionals think about the bad side of coaching and I'm sure Stephen Kearney never dreamed of the nightmare he was to endure.

The success Parramatta fans experienced during the 1980s has embedded a culture that it is their destiny to be successful and their right to be in the play-offs...every year. The fans are the most demanding in the competition and, dare I say it, the most passionate.

Sometimes this passion is a burden for the coaches and administrators when times are not good as the previous five coaches testify. However, I think Stephen Kearney was bearing more than just the burden of the fans; the turmoil of the administrative issues have compounded on to the coach with the inability to coach to the extent he wanted - like no extra coaching resource to assist him in his role. Once his appointment to the club was confirmed, the wheels were in motion to axe the then CEO, Paul Osborne, who appointed him.

Straight away he had lost an ally and, as he would come to find out, you need as many as you can get in this club. If Osborne had stayed for a little longer, Kearney would have received some of the resources he needed to extract what was necessary out of his players.

Parramatta was a club under a dictatorship during the years of its success and up until about five years ago. Dennis Fitzgerald for years battled numerous attempts to oust him from his role within the leagues and football club - but the connections he had made within the NSWRL before the NRL was established secured his position of influence within Parramatta and his place at the Eels. Now the board of Parramatta are due for an election and they need to be seen to be acting on the lack of performance - to hold on to their seats.

Similarities between this club and the Auckland Blues is staggering; an administration that has made a call (sacking Pat Lam) whilst defending their status and positions. The whispers suggest that the Blues management needs changing if the franchise is to improve.

Pat Lam enjoyed the support of the board and CEO until the same management pushed him out to save their own jobs. They must provide the new coach the resources to do what is necessary to improve their reputation as a strong franchise. Can John Kirwan battle with the surroundings to emulate an era which he played such a large part in establishing?

Is this management well enough connected to maintain their positions similar to Dennis Fitzgerald? Or will there be the same disappointment as there has been at Parramatta? If so, at what point will there be a revision of procedures? If not, the 'poisoned chalice' at both the Blues and Parramatta will continue to be filled by the devil.Good for Kiwis? - P59.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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