Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Smart call was a silent one

By sacking Bluey when they did, Owen Glenn and Eric Watson have almost guaranteed their fans will be underwhelmed when the new coach is appointed. Photo / Getty
By sacking Bluey when they did, Owen Glenn and Eric Watson have almost guaranteed their fans will be underwhelmed when the new coach is appointed. Photo / Getty

It's difficult to see how Warriors fans are going to feel anything other than disappointment if and when the club finally installs a new head coach.

Frankly, the endless speculation about who is on their shortlist which sounds more like a long list has become tedious and that's not the fault of the media.

That's the fault of the club for rather strangely seeing the need to sack Brian McClennan two weeks before the end of the regular season and conduct their recruitment process with the world knowing they are conducting a recruitment process.

Is that A: smart or B: seriously dumb? Well done if you answered A, you can have a job at the club any time. If you answered B, it's because you are most likely in possession of a brain bigger than your ego - unlike the Warriors owners.

The smart play would have been to keep Bluey in the job until the end of the season. Not only would that have provided the people's favourite with a little dignity, it would have provided the club with a couple of extra weeks to scout around for replacements in secret.

It doesn't appear at least that they would have missed out on signing any potential new coach had they waited until the end of the season before publicly announcing Bluey's departure.

But the problem with that scenario is that the new owners would have missed a chance to prove a point: that they are in charge; that they have the power and appetite to make the big calls. Were they worried that people would forget they were there if they didn't do something definitive?

Bottom line ... ego got in the way, as it so often does. And the danger with ego ... it stuffs everything up. The best sporting institutions pretty much require everyone involved to leave their ego at the door - to remember they are not bigger than the team.

Someone might need to remind Owen Glenn and Eric Watson of that because by sacking McLennan when they did, they have almost guaranteed that their fans will be underwhelmed when the new coach is appointed.

Chief executive Wayne Scurrah has said several times that he has been instructed by the owners to find the best coach they can, and that to do whatever it takes. To the fans, that means Craig Bellamy, or Tim Sheens, or even Wayne Bennett. Expectations have been raised and they need to be fulfilled - except they probably won't because the noises aren't encouraging about the former two. And again, maybe it would have been better to have been asking those two quietly about their willingness to come to Auckland while Bluey was still in the post. Maybe it would have been best for much of the vetting to have been done before grand statements were made and the eyes of the league fraternity were on the club.

There's an old saying about under-promising and over-delivering - that's the smart approach. The danger for the Warriors now is that they have to come back to their fans with a lower profile coach who was clearly not the first choice.

If you go all out for the Prom Queen, it's a hard task to come back to the girl next door. That will be awkward for everyone, one of those pride-swallowing exercises that is heavy with regret, shuffling feet and little eye contact.

The thing is, though, while it will be a PR disaster, in the long run, it may be the making of the club. Coaching is a curious business with a growing weight of evidence that suggests that those previously not seen as A-list can quickly prove otherwise.

Steve Hansen with the All Blacks is proof of that. Few thought he'd hack it and he's arguably already looking better than Graham Henry.

Dave Rennie didn't immediately excite when he was given the Chiefs job and 10 months later, he led them to their first title. Coaching is part science, part art and sometimes the unlikeliest people make the best coaches.

So it is possible that someone such as Raiders assistant Justin Morgan who is reportedly of interest, could be exactly what the Warriors need. Maybe Tony Iro could make things work in the long run and establish himself in the role.

It's dangerous to believe that the lesser known applicants won't actually be the best ones, but the Warriors will have little chance of successfully spinning that line to their fans.

- Herald on Sunday

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Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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