NRL: Ackland's exit will cut last link to club's earliest days

By Michael Brown

Junior Warriors coach may return to former job as scout for Australian clubs.

John Ackland sought a contract extension in February but was told by chief executive Wayne Scurrah to wait so Elliott could get to know him better. Photo / Sarah Ivey
John Ackland sought a contract extension in February but was told by chief executive Wayne Scurrah to wait so Elliott could get to know him better. Photo / Sarah Ivey

John Ackland's departure from the Warriors at the conclusion of the season will bring to an end an era that ushered in one of the most successful stints in the club's history.

It was confirmed yesterday by the Warriors that Ackland won't be seeking an extension of his contract, and he follows the departures in recent times of former coach Ivan Cleary, former director of football John Hart and former assistant coach Tony Iro.

Ackland was part of the club's coaching staff for their first season in 1995 and returned to Mt Smart Stadium in 2004. He was Cleary's assistant from 2006-09 and then coached the Junior Warriors to back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.

But Ackland has felt increasingly marginalised under the new regime of coach Matt Elliott and the new ownership structure of Owen Glenn and Eric Watson and didn't feel he had a future at the club.

Ackland sought a contract extension in February but was told by chief executive Wayne Scurrah to wait so Elliott could get to know him better, but Ackland and the new coach haven't always seen eye-to-eye. Elliott has made significant changes since his arrival and is clear on where he wants to take the club.

"When Matt Elliott was appointed last October, he had some definite ideas on how we could further improve our overall recruitment and development structure," Scurrah said. "Matt and [general manager football] Dean Bell are reviewing the current structure and future plans. As well as announcing the new NYC coach, we will also be in a position to reveal details of this in the near future."

The timing of the announcement is interesting. It's understood Ackland informed the club a few weeks ago he would be leaving but it wasn't confirmed until yesterday, a couple of days after the Warriors won their third straight game.

They also announced the re-signing of five players - props Sione Lousi, Suaia Matagi and Charlie Gubb plus utility Pita Godinet until the end of 2014 and forward Sam Lousi until the end of 2015.

It's not clear what Ackland will do next but it's possible he will return to his former job as a New Zealand-based scout for Australian clubs.

He is a popular figure in New Zealand league circles and was seen as a link to the local game. He has long promoted local talent and is understood to be concerned about the direction of the club and its identity.

The Junior Warriors are on a run of four wins from their last five games and are fourth on the under-20s table.

Elliott has named the side originally picked to play Manly for Sunday night's game against the third-placed Roosters in Sydney.

Kevin Locke will start at fullback after missing last weekend's 18-16 defeat of Manly because of a hip injury.

Warriors v Roosters:Sydney, 8.30pm Sunday
Kevin Locke, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Russell Packer, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannerin, Elijah Taylor
Warriors Reserves: Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Dominique Peyroux, Ngani Laumape, Suaia Matagi, Charlie Gubb (three to be omitted).

- APNZ

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