Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Warriors need to woo NRL's top guns

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The Warriors should start at the top in the hunt for a new coach. Photo / Getty Images
The Warriors should start at the top in the hunt for a new coach. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors should start at the top in the hunt for a new coach - and that means approaching someone like the brilliant Melbourne Storm boss Craig Bellamy.

The new ownership team of the outwardly ambitious Owen Glenn and Eric Watson need to wave their money in front of the game's best coaches after this year's disaster. The obvious problem is that the NRL's coaching guns may not be available.

The embattled Auckland NRL club had to part company with Brian McClennan because the six-game losing streak included diabolical performances in the past three rounds. McClennan didn't have a CV capable of withstanding that onslaught on his reputation or the club's prospects. He wanted the Warriors to reflect the power-packed, flamboyant Kiwi league makeup, but tried to get his team to run before he had learned the arduous NRL crawl, and paid the price.

Did McClennan jump or was he pushed? There was so much writing on the wall that you couldn't see the wall any more.

With rows of empty Mt Smart Stadium seats staring out, Bluey was sacked, for sure, even though the modern severance parlance leaves room for confusion.

All NRL clubs are powered by the chief executive and head coach, so Wayne Scurrah also deserves scrutiny. Given that the amount of experience in the first-grade squad was trimmed before 2012, presumably for cost-cutting reasons, Scurrah's role needs to be considered. It would be no surprise if his position is also on the line with Glenn on the prowl.

The Warriors have reached a point where they require yet another new broom. They have been a source of continual disappointment since 1995, but the belief that they are a powerhouse-in-waiting must never be lost. Glenn and Watson have certainly talked a big game this year. The Warriors have never hired a current, high-class NRL coach but they may want to change that.

There were contributing circumstances this season including injuries, but strong sides endure those without total collapse. I suspect the impending departures of James Maloney and Lewis Brown - signalled long ago - had a bigger effect than has been emphasised. Maloney, pivotal to the good times, was hot and cold. The way he fell off a tackle against Penrith on Sunday was extremely cold.

The Warriors turned into a team without structure or heart. They were capable of unravelling at the drop of a pass. It was horrible to watch. The players often looked lost and the defensive co-ordination was fragile. Making the error-prone, defensively wayward Manu Vatuvei captain from the wing was weird and stupid. The coach is responsible for these things.

Steve Kearney, the Kiwis coach who was dumped by Parramatta, is not the man for the job. Kearney has turned up at Mt Smart at an opportune time but this should not be regarded as serendipity. His brief record in charge of the Eels is not good enough. But if Kearney does get the nod, the Warriors must insist that he quits as the national coach. Having a head coach dealing with the distractions and even conflicts involved when also running the Kiwis, especially under these dire circumstances, is unacceptable.

The club needs to go to any extreme to deliver on lofty ambitions. The top coaches are Wayne Bennett, Des Hasler, Bellamy and perhaps Tim Sheens. Bennett is only one year into a massive deal with the Newcastle Knights. Hasler looks grand final bound with the rejuvenated Canterbury Bulldogs, having been lured away from the title-winning Manly Sea Eagles only last year. Neither Bennett nor Hasler will be available. Sheens, at the Wests Tigers, would have made a far better Warriors foundation coach than John Monie all those years ago, and might still be worth an approach.

Bellamy is still relatively young for a coach, at 52, and his contract at the Storm ends next season. There was loose speculation about his future during a run of losses this season and after a decade at the Storm, he would relish new horizons.

What does Bellamy offer? He is obsessive, and has an amazing record in developing outstanding players from within a club at a league outpost. His teams are mentally tough, durable and exceptionally well organised although sometimes lacking in outright power - something that should never be a problem in Auckland. Unfortunately, Bellamy has been linked with the well-connected Roosters, and the Roosters usually get their man. The Warriors need to put on their heaviest gloves, however, and get in the ring.

In terms of the current Warriors setup, John Ackland should be kept where he is, coaching the juniors and driving the development/scouting plans, supplying whatever the head coach needs. He has done a brilliant job there, and the club cannot afford to compromise those advantages.

McClennan's assistant Tony Iro, the caretaker coach for the final two games, will be in the mix but is unlikely to get the first-grade job, especially as a follow-up to another homegrown coaching failure.

You don't know unless you ask, and Bellamy offers the chance to start the search at the highest level. If that fails, the club can scour Australia, remembering that the best years here were the Daniel Anderson years. There will be a brilliant coach on the rise somewhere in Australia, the trick being to find him. There are voices who insist that the Warriors must find their first-grade coaches from Australia's league school of hard knocks, and it is getting harder to mount a case against that. As for McClennan, fate was not overly kind to him, but he also fell short. A few hopes and dreams have gone down with him.

* Statistics are all the rage in sport. The numbers say the All Blacks were perfect on their own lineouts in Sydney. Yet Steve Hansen wasn't happy because the ball was not delivered in a desirable fashion often enough. As is the case most of the time in sport, the numbers told only part of the story.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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