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

Hugh McGahan: Lead role's just too soon for Iro

Tony Iro is on an important learning curve. Photo / Dean Purcell
Tony Iro is on an important learning curve. Photo / Dean Purcell

Tony Iro certainly drew a clear line in the sand, demanding more from his Warriors players than what they showed against the Dragons last week.

By dropping Shaun Johnson and James Maloney, the stand-in Warriors coach sent a message that, big name or not, you need to perform every week.

It's a scenario that sees Iro with nothing to lose. Unfortunately, I do not see this being enough to impress Warriors management that he's the right man for the job.

Who cares if the team wins or loses? They aren't expected to trouble the Raiders and even if they win today, it's all too late.

This is a calculated move by Iro to assert his authority and demonstrate a lack of fear in making a hard decision. It's one thing to drop a player with little riding on the result but I don't think the same decision would have been made five rounds into the competition.

Replacing your star halves with a no-name halfback and a second-rower would normally be widely questioned and have alarm bells ringing within club management. But this week, it is of no relevance other than highlighting fortitude.

Iro is a strong character and rarely flustered. Problems are met with a calculated response similar to that of Ivan Cleary, where you get what you see. There are no veils of secrecy with Iro and he is a matter-of-fact person. His pedigree in league is beyond reproach but as a coach, he has experienced more losing cultures than winning.

His time at the club has been under Tony Kemp and Cleary. Despite Cleary's 50 per cent win-loss record, it can't be said that the Warriors were consistent winners or had a winning culture.

Iro has seen the worst a club can dish up in terms of results, and pressure placed on the coach by fans, media and management, mostly in the past three months.

With that, Iro should have a good idea what not to do if he becomes a head coach. But what he really needs is to experience the highs of being in an environment that exemplifies effort resulting in winning attitudes.

The constant is winning, but the success is in the effort, as shown most recently by the Storm and the Sea Eagles and also culminating in eras like those of the Broncos, Raiders, Bulldogs and Eels.

Those organisations lasted beyond the one-year successes of the Tigers in 2005, Bulldogs in 2004 and Penrith in 2003. A one-off grand final appearance doesn't count either, as shown by the Knights in 2001, Warriors in 2002 and 2011, and Cowboys in 2005.

For Iro to succeed as Warriors coach, it can't be handed to him now.

He must tolerate playing the assistant some more before graduating from his apprenticeship, having endured all the pressures coaching staff must undergo to provide them with the tools to be successful.

- 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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