Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

League: Shuffling team won't work now

Manu Vatuvei of the Vodafone NZ Warriors in action against the Newcastle Knights. Photo / Nick Reed.
Manu Vatuvei of the Vodafone NZ Warriors in action against the Newcastle Knights. Photo / Nick Reed.

The Warriors say they have drawn a line in the sand after their limp defeat to the Raiders last weekend but the question is why it took so long to get to that point.

It was easy to see some time ago things were in a bad way at Mt Smart and that drastic action needed to be taken.

Coach Andrew McFadden has indicated some big-name players face the chop for Saturday's game against the Broncos and there need to be many changes. It can't be a case of shuffling and dropping a couple to the bench because that's not a strong message.

The changes need to either be plentiful in number or in the 'quality' of players.

I've heard some say Simon Mannering is vulnerable but that would be unfair. He was coming back from a painful injury against the Raiders and might not have been the Mannering we know but he has a proven record and is a great competitor.

Ben Matulino is another possibility and that would be a good call. His numbers just aren't stacking up right now and, given his size and ability, he should be leading from the front. It's what he was doing in previous years but not this season and the benchmark he should be aspiring to every week is that set by Storm forwards Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor.

Dropping Shaun Johnson would be a huge statement but it's not one I think McFadden should make. Johnson has struggled this season but I can't see them winning at all without him.

What he needs to do is take the ball to the line more, in the way Johnathan Thurston, Daly Cheery-Evans and Mitchell Pearce do and Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns before that. Just because Johnson is a half, it doesn't mean he should always be protected and if he put his body on the line and was prepared to get knocked about, it might not only improve his confidence but show others the need to do the same. You can't always wear a dinner suit. Sometimes you have to don the overalls.

I was interested to hear the Warriors players held their own honesty session mid-week. I'm a bit dubious about them, particularly given some can be offended by what is said in the sessions and then work behind the scenes to undermine others. In my experience, they don't always work with Polynesian players but there comes a time when everyone in life has to eventually face up to and be honest about criticism.

McFadden needed to have eyes and ears in that meeting to know what was said to act on things. It's time for more bad eggs to depart, and not just players but staff. McFadden needs people around him he can trust to deliver the message when he's not around.

It's what has happened in the Kiwis around culture and values following the 2013 World Cup. You know that if Stephen Kearney had been away the week they learned of the latest prescription pills saga, his assistants would have done exactly the same thing and not selected those involved.

We'll probably see a reaction from the Warriors next weekend, and it will be just like them to beat the Broncos, but it's what happens the following week and the week after that that really counts.

- Herald on Sunday

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