Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Crisis? What crisis? Doyle plays down team cuts

Warriors CEO Jim Doyle maintains the club is not in crisis - but it feels like they might be close to it.

The events of yesterday, when coach Andrew McFadden dropped six players to reserve grade after a late night out on Tuesday, was the climax to an awful week for the Auckland franchise.

Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Albert Vete, Sam Lisone and Konrad Hurrell have been cut from the NRL side after breaching team standards.

It comes in the wake of the 42-0 loss to Melbourne last Monday and is a considerable shock, especially as Vatuvei and Matulino have been fixtures in the team for years while Thompson has been a consistent performer since he arrived last year.

Compounded by the absence of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tui Lolohea and Simon Mannering through injury, it means that the team to face the St George Illawarra Dragons tomorrow has a raw look to it with the likes of Matt Allwood, John Palavi and debutant 21-year-old prop Toafofoa Sipley brought into the squad.

However Vatuvei, Matulino and Thompson may still be in contention for the Kiwis, named tomorrow ahead of the Anzac test on Friday.

"We are a different organisation," said Kiwis convener of selectors Richie Barnett.

"Of course, if it were anything more serious we would consider it. I haven't spoken to the other selectors or Mooks [coach Stephen Kearney] but I don't think it is a big one. Sometimes they have to go out but they have just got to monitor what they do and the timing of it. In that respect, if they were told not to go out, then that is average and if they were drinking a lot then that is even worse."

It's understood the six went out on Tuesday night until the early hours of Wednesday morning. Though not all of the players were drinking (Hurrell and Vete were designated drivers), the night ended at an Auckland Viaduct bar between 2am and 3am.

Some players were then late to a team meeting on Wednesday, which prompted an investigation by management. Doyle and an HR representative met players about the indiscretion, though Doyle refused to go into details yesterday.

"We've dealt with it internally," he said. "That's where it stops as far as we're concerned. If people want to speculate on all sorts of things, that's up to them. We've been trying to create something of real substance that we can all be proud of and unfortunately this just adds a bit of negativity to it."

But he denied the Warriors were in crisis.

"No I wouldn't say so," said Doyle. "What happens as an organisation when you set high standards [is] some people meet them very quickly and others unfortunately take a bit longer and do things outside those standards. As an organisation we have to be bigger than any individual ... and we have to have certain things in place."

Doyle said the six players were "regretful and remorseful" when confronted.

Warriors forward Charlie Gubb confirmed the atmosphere before Thursday's training was tense.

"We always have a team meeting in the morning and there was just a different feeling," he told the Herald. "We went in and Cappy [McFadden] just told us straight up what was going on.

"The boys didn't meet some standards and to create the culture that we want you've got to be disciplined and if that means dropping some of your best players then you've got to do it.

"We know the rules and you've got to stick to them."

- NZ Herald

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