NRL: Scurrah common thread in axings

By Steve Deane

Warriors' chief executive insists he has confidence of club's owners and board as cull count keeps rising.

Warriors' chief executive Wayne Scurrah says he is in for the long haul with the NRL club - through good times and bad. Photo / Greg Bowker
Warriors' chief executive Wayne Scurrah says he is in for the long haul with the NRL club - through good times and bad. Photo / Greg Bowker

The corpses continue to pile up at the gates of Mt Smart Stadium. Ivan Cleary, Tony Iro, John Ackland, Craig Walker, Brian McClennan and now Matt Elliott. That's some cull for a club that just over two seasons ago achieved the rare feat of taking all three of their teams to Sydney in October for grand final day.

There's a common thread to the departures. All were said to have quit. For some of them, that was even true. The immensely popular and loyal Iro walked away in dismay. Ditto hugely successful Junior Warriors' coach Ackland. Cleary and Walker both saw the writing on the wall and jumped back across the Tasman. Having fiercely and unsuccessfully fought Cleary's corner, a dejected John Hart was squeezed out by the incoming McClennan. The axe that fell on McClennan came with a press release indicating he, too, had walked away.

"Mate, I'm no quitter," he told the Herald yesterday.

That all the aforementioned departures have occurred under the watch of chief executive Wayne Scurrah is the other common thread.

"The CEO has presided over the whole f***ing thing," a source close to the club told the Herald yesterday. "He has effectively taken them all out."

Having rubber-stamped two failed coaching appointments, Scurrah accepts that his performance is under scrutiny. But he takes issue with the theory that the blame for the failings of the last two-and-a-bit seasons lays primarily with him. He cops the blame when things go badly on the field, but his inbox hardly fills up with praise when the team performs well. Sure, his fingerprints may be on a couple of failed coaching appointments, but they are hardly the only set. And those good times, well, he was part of those too. It wasn't all down to Cleary and Hart.

"Ivan's last two years were under my management because John had stepped aside from running football," Scurrah said. "I took over running football and we made the finals and a grand final. I think I've been part of success as well."

Hart wouldn't be drawn on the situation at the club.

"I don't want to comment other that to say I am deeply disappointed to see what is happening with the Warriors," he said.

Ackland, too, declined to comment, while McClennan preferred to reminisce about happier times.

"I worked at Leeds for Gary Hetherington," McClennan said. "What a wonderful experience. He was the best boss in the world - tough but he was the only person I dealt with. That's a good model. Stability. That starts at the top. It always starts at the front office."

Elliott may have carried the can for this season's failings, but he won't thank an administration that added more games at graveyard ground Eden Park and more travel into an already brutal schedule.

"All a footy club needs is a home ground and a playing strip," one observer noted drily following Elliott's sacking. The problem with the Warriors was that they have far too many versions of the latter, and no longer possess the former. While there has been no shortage of bold statements by ownership and management, the bright spots on the field have been mainly confined to the fluoro pink and lime swirls on a seemingly endless run of themed jerseys.

"At the end of the day we've got to be able to pay the bills and financially be able to put a competitive team on the roster," Scurrah said. "If our revenue was what it was five years ago we would be running last every year I guarantee you."

While some sense the hand of Owen Glenn behind the increasingly ruthless moves at the club, Scurrah deals mainly with co-owner Eric Watson and the club's board. He retains the confidence of both, he insists.

"Absolutely I have got their confidence but I am expected to perform as well. We are not happy just making the eight and people are going to be held accountable."

That accountability, says Scurrah, most certainly extends to him..

"If I didn't think I could perform properly and make a positive difference I wouldn't be here," he said.

Heroes to zeroes

2011
Panthers CEO Phil Gould announces Ivan Cleary is his prime target for the club's coaching job. The Warriors insist Cleary is under contract and will not be released. After a mid-season four-match losing run, Cleary announces he will join Penrith in 2012. Brian McClennan is confirmed as coach in waiting. The Warriors reach the grand final, losing to Manly in Cleary's last game in charge.

2012
John Hart relinquishes his seat on the board, exiting the club. The team struggles under McClennan, who is sacked with two games remaining after an extended losing run. Tony Iro takes over as caretaker coach for the final two matches. After an extensive search, Matt Elliott is confirmed as the new coach. Head trainer Craig Walker and Iro both quit the club.

2013
Elliott's first season is a mixed bag. After a record defeat by Penrith, the Warriors win seven out of eight matches to move into finals contention. But they lose four of their last six matches to bow out, putting Elliott's job in peril. Long-serving Junior Warriors coach John Ackland quits the club.

2014
After two losses to start the season, wins over the Cowboys and Tigers hint at a revival. But a shock loss to winless Cronulla proves the death knell for Elliott, who is replaced by assistant Andrew McFadden.

- NZ Herald

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