Eric Watson: New coach Elliott is no lame duck

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Warriors coach Matt Elliott.  Photo / Getty Images
Warriors coach Matt Elliott. Photo / Getty Images

I've copped a bit of flak since I've been back, usually along the lines of, "Any more big bold predictions, Eric?"

It seems some people found our media conference last July, where we outlined an ambitious new vision for the Vodafone NZ Warriors, quite controversial. Especially when we went on to drop eight straight games in a row.

Put your head above water in this country and it's inevitable someone will be looking to push it back down in the hope you'll drown in a sea of humiliation.

In some ways that's not such a bad thing because it does keep one focused, not only on the consequences of winning but also of losing.

I stand by what was said last year. A line has been drawn in the sand and the national dream of the Warriors winning the NRL premiership is something we are utterly committed to making a reality. Owning the Vodafone Warriors isn't business in the purest sense for me. The compelling reason is quite simply the desire to win the NRL premiership someday - it can't come too soon - and bring it to New Zealand, to take it away from the Australians.

Nothing would please me more.

The NRL is one of the world's toughest and most exciting competitions; it is comfortably the most exciting and even sporting competition throughout Australasia.

The Warriors are the biggest sporting franchise in this country and are a critical part of the competition, but that must never be enough.

The announcements last year were important in terms of a strategic mentality. We needed to show we'd mapped out where we saw ourselves heading - and it wasn't about maintaining what had become the norm.

A case can be made supporting the view the Warriors haven't done too badly, in fact a lot better than most clubs in the NRL. We've been to the grand final twice in the last 10 years - only Melbourne, Manly and the Roosters can better that - and we've reached the finals more than most, too.

It's still not good enough, though. Not acceptable for the owners, the board, management, the football department, staff, the players or all our loyal members and supporters.

What happened at the tail of last year is even less acceptable.

So with the season not far away, how are we placed? We're in very good hands with new coach Matt Elliott.

I'm told there's a belief Matt landed the job by default. That's an insult to all concerned, principally Matt. Yes, we did go close to agreeing a contract with one other person before he was hired. It was one of the league's so-called super coaches with a proven track record of success in the NRL. He would have put bums on seats and presumably have made us competitive instantly.

But he dithered. It allowed us to go with the man I felt had interviewed the best and had the best background and vision for the Warriors. He had impressed on every level imaginable, especially his whole-of-club vision. The other crowd-pleasing option may have given us a quick fix, but I was actually relieved it worked out the way it did. Above all Matt provides an asset the club hasn't had since start-up coach John Monie in 1995 - a coach with NRL experience.

Matt (who by the way has a diploma in education and a degree in sports science) has been even more impressive than I expected and has brought world class coaching colleagues with him, including Carl Jennings (ex-Crusaders, Bradford, Canberra) Andrew McFadden (ex-Canberra) and Brad Morris (ex-UFC fighter and high performance expert).

The talk finishes in a couple of weeks. There are some tough games early in the season, like our second-round match at Eden Park against the Roosters.

With Sir Owen Glenn's joint ownership involvement as well, we have a franchise that's walking the talk about putting the best resources in place, having spent more than $1.5m on upgrading our gym to the best NRL standards.

As inspirational US motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude. The Warriors are a club with that in spades.

Eric Watson will write occasionally for the Herald on Sunday.

- Herald on Sunday

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