David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Timing of big night out beggars belief

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Coach Andrew McFadden. Photo / Andrew McFadden
Coach Andrew McFadden. Photo / Andrew McFadden

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden was left with no choice in axing six players for breaking team protocol for an unsanctioned midweek late night out on the town.

A few of the ill-disciplined six - Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete and Konrad Hurrell " were already skating on thin ice following the side's inept 42-0 Anzac Day defeat to Melbourne.

McFadden conceded midweek that changes to the lineup named on Tuesday to play the Dragons remained a possibility, and this bunch simply made his decisions around who to cull that much easier.

Going out for a round of cards and a few drinks is perhaps forgivable. Players are within their rights to go out socially of course, within reason.

But the timing of their big night out " two days after the third worst defeat in the club's 21-year history " and the fact some of that group then missed what had to be a vitally important team meeting the following day, beggars belief.

It also illustrates a high degree of arrogance, complacency and lack of respect for what McFadden and managing director Jim Doyle are trying to achieve in changing the club's culture of mediocrity.

Right or wrong, true or untrue, their lack of awareness or complete disregard for the widely held public perception that this team is full of players locked into cruise mode, with little regard for McFadden's leadership, is astounding.

Just last year, Vatuvei and Hurrell were reprimanded for attending a late-night concert in Auckland, in between consecutive 50-16 thrashings at the hands of the Cowboys and Wests Tigers. Surely they can't have forgotten the fallout from that badly timed night out?

With the Warriors struggling in 13th place on the premiership ladder with a three and five win-loss record and fans livid with their inconsistent form, it seems incredible the players thought their latest bonding session would not attract serious condemnation.

And with McFadden battling to keep his job in the face of relentless pressure and criticism, to not front up on time for Wednesday's team meeting was just asking for trouble.

They may as well have emailed McFadden from their respective lounge chairs, volunteering to stand down from tomorrow's must-win clash against St George Illawarra.

For Hurrell, who was not selected in the NRL side anyway, to be "dropped" to a reserve grade team he was already a part of, speaks volumes for his dramatic fall from grace.

But just when the fires of outrage appeared to be dying down, around midday yesterday, the Tongan international then threw gasoline on the embers with a mindless retweet that implied his approval of a post criticising McFadden.

If he is trying to provoke the club into releasing him from the final two years of his contract, he's going about it the right way.

A first grade recall now seems further away than the NRL finals series, and Vatuvei, Thompson and Matulino's hopes of earning Kiwis selection for next Friday's transtasman test against Australia now hinges on them showing considerable gusto in tomorrow's reserve grade game against the Canterbury Bulldogs.

There's sure to be a bumper crowd for the 11.45am kick-off, but McFadden's headaches will only worsen if they fail to fire and their first grade fill-ins happen to get the job done later that afternoon.

- NZ Herald

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David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

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