NRL: Harden up, Warriors told

By Steve Deane

New coach delivers a clear message to players after Matt Elliott's marching orders.

Andrew McFadden's first pep talk to the Warriors yesterday as head coach was very forthright. Photo / Greg Bowker
Andrew McFadden's first pep talk to the Warriors yesterday as head coach was very forthright. Photo / Greg Bowker

The message was clear when Andrew McFadden spoke to his players for the first time as Warriors' head coach yesterday: It's time to harden up.

"I think they want a tough environment," the former Raiders' playmaker said when asked how he intended to solve a riddle that has befuddled a long and distinguished line of coaches and draw consistency out of a squad that specialises in making a lie of its obvious talent.

"This team has always had lots of potential and talent. But ultimately we need tough players coming through and I need to create the environment that allows them to be that," McFadden said.

Thomas Leuluai, a senior hand wheeled out at yesterday's announcement to put forth the players' view, confirmed Australian McFadden's message had been forthright.

"He made it clear he would be making the tough calls and toughening up our environment," said Leuluai, who denied player power had played a part in Elliott's demise.

"Definitely not. It was a shock to us. You could sort of sense something was happening when we came back from Australia and we found out today, but it was nothing like that.

"We don't have any say in those sort of matters. Obviously the owners have set pretty ambitious goals and in their eyes maybe things needed to change."

While the club's management stuck firmly to the line that Elliott had fallen on his sword, Leuluai didn't bother with the political claptrap.

"It is pretty embarrassing standing here today [yesterday] knowing that your coach is getting sacked because of our performance. We need to have a deep look at ourselves. Matty took the ultimate punishment for our poor performance. It is not a nice feeling standing here knowing that."

A long-time Elliott understudy who has been carefully groomed for a head coaching position, McFadden inherits an underperforming squad, restless fanbase and trigger-happy ownership. The head coach's chair at Mt Smart is one of the hottest seats in the NRL, but McFadden insists he isn't daunted by that.

"Matt has obviously paid the ultimate price," he said. "Whether that is right or wrong is not for me to decide, but I am the coach now and the buck stops with me."

McFadden's appointment is for the remainder of the season, but a decision on whether he is a long-term solution will be made mid-season, according to chief executive Wayne Scurrah.

"He needs a bit of time to settle in but that doesn't mean we can't win," Scurrah said. "I spoke to [owner] Eric [Watson] last night ... he is hugely optimistic about what Andrew can do and so am I. He is made of good stuff and he'll get every chance to be the NRL coach beyond this season."

McFadden is confident he'll seize that chance. "I am not worried about timeframe or anything, I am just going to get to work."

Andrew McFadden

• The 36-year-old former halfback played 100 NRL games for the Raiders, Eels and Storm between 1997 and 2004.
• Joined the coaching staff at the Raiders in 2005, serving under head coach Matt Elliott.
• Coached Raiders NSW Cup side in 2006 before taking up an assistant coaching role at the Catalans Dragons for 2007 and 2008 Super League seasons.
• Returned to the Raiders as Toyota Cup coach in 2009, then promoted to assistant coach.
• Assistant coach in Canberra for three seasons under David Furner before joining Elliott at the Warriors in 2013.

- NZ Herald

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