Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: It's business as usual at Warriors

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Divorce in the air between club's co-owners Glenn and Watson and here's hoping it will be a quickie.

Owen Glenn. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Owen Glenn. Photo / Brett Phibbs

So now we know who has been in control of the Warriors. And apparently it wasn't co-owner Owen Glenn.

The remarkably shambolic events of yesterday, involving a bizarre and revealing press release from Glenn, represent chaos like we haven't seen since the last chaotic Warriors episode, and the one before that.

Divorce is in the air between Glenn and the other co-owner, Eric Watson. Glenn, according to subsequent Herald investigation, has been feeling left out. The question now is will it be a messy divorce. Speed, for the sake of the club, is of the essence.

When you witness sports ownership at its craziest, you understand why the New Zealand Rugby Union only pretends to let people buy Super rugby franchises.

Coach Matt Elliott's departure will fit in a list of memorable Warriors events, like losing their first points for fielding an ineligible player, signing up with a rival to the Australian Rugby League, joining the salary cap rorting business, having clandestine meetings with the International Rugby Board, and ripping through owners, chief executives and coaches with the gusto that Warren Beatty had for the opposite sex.

You name it, and the Warriors have done it - apart from winning a premiership, of course.

I recall, way back, enthusiastically recording amazing quotes from inaugural coach John Monie, as he blasted the club's then chairman Peter McLeod during the Super League war. Put it this way: more than a century of New Zealand rugby has not produced such open, ferocious hostility. A fellow journo, on reading the story, reckoned: "This is just like overseas sport."

Never a dull moment. Every few years the Warriors produce a doozie. But even by their lofty controversy standards, the Glenn press release takes some beating. As the eyes worked down the page, the mouth slowly mouthed "wow". In it, Glenn berated his club's management and by strong implication Watson for Elliott's sacking and its handling.

As he is prone to do, Glenn distanced himself from anything that might be termed mediocrity, although not everyone would regard this sort of press release - issued from the other side of the world - as the last word in high standards.

But give him top marks for brutal honesty as he sees it, because Glenn made it clear that, unbelievably, he was not consulted, that Elliott had not resigned as chief executive Wayne Scurrah claimed, and Glenn quite rightly described the Warriors' performance against Cronulla as a "debacle".

We in the press often urge sport to be more transparent, so it is hard to dis a man for hurling open the gates so we can dance around the dirty washing. But you could almost hear Simon Mannering, the redoubtable skipper, letting out a sigh and ringing his agent, beaten at last.

Geez, how time flies. It feels like only five minutes ago that Glenn and Watson were revealing their dreams of owning the most glorious sports franchise in the Southern Hemisphere. They won't be the first to fall out over owning a sports club, and they won't be the last. It is an expensive business and far trickier than imagined. Those Churchillian speeches sound great, until blokes drop the ball and turn up to training overweight. Egos get bruised.

Dressing sackings up as resignations is hardly new in business and sport either. As followers of New Zealand cricket know, who said exactly what in private rooms is also open for amazing debate. But however it happened, going public holds implications.

Glenn, it looks clear, is positioning himself for an exit. If it comes down to which co-owner becomes the remaining owner, I'd plump for Watson in the interests of the club's survival, although Glenn beats him hands down in the business of helping sell newspapers.

A knee-jerk press release attacking a knee-jerk decision hints at why Glenn has had the odd hiccup with his various projects. If ever a bit of paper could destabilise a club, this is it.

Watson, though, has stuck with the Warriors through thick and thin, with little fuss - he was virtually invisible during the salary cap crisis. His style is more likely to produce an environment coaches and players can operate in. That's if he's got decent ones left.

Poor Andrew McFadden, the rookie coach in the centre of this mess. Until Glenn hit the send key, the Warriors were down but not out. But open ownership warfare and/or rank instability will chase the good players away, and make it virtually impossible to bring good ones in. Those who do come are likely to be past their prime, and able to demand exorbitant wages.

Whatever the outcome, the smell will hang around.

The current Warriors need to circle the wagons. The experienced hard men - basically Mannering, Thomas Leuluai and Nathan Friend - must lead a battle cry of professional pride. But this has got downward spiral written all over it. Worse still, the stadium situation is a crisis beyond saving by a club of schisms.

Chief executive Scurrah, a survivor, has been a failure. This is an emergency situation, one that needs a brilliant old hand like the club's former executive director John Hart to take charge. A hardened league chief executive willing to stand up to the owner is a priority. Maybe the calm, wise old head of Aussie coach Tim Sheens in some sort of role - not necessarily coach - would be a good idea right now.

Unfortunately the likes of Hart won't want a job under such chaotic ownership. And who right now makes the calls? Eric might give you a job, and Owen would ring up saying you haven't got it.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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