NZ Herald Focus logo
FCM Travel logo

NRL: Is Stephen Kearney really the right choice for the Warriors?

By Dale Budge

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney's appointment as head coach of the Warriors with Andrew McFadden moving to an assistant role is perplexing. Managing Director Jim Doyle and the Warriors board want the best of both worlds.

There is potential for real upside - Kearney will bring fresh ideas, a proven track record playing a forward-based game on attack and with a strong defence while McFadden staying on ensures the Warriors don't need to completely start again and undo any good work that has taken place at the club over the past two and half seasons. Win-win right?

The reality though is there is also significant downside to the overnight announcement.

McFadden wanted to be head coach. He made that clear with numerous statements over the past couple of weeks. He missed out. Someone else was preferred and the club has made it clear they don't believe it would have worked under McFadden alone.

So how does McFadden slot into this new coaching structure? How comfortable is he with it? Will the players continue to respect him now that he has been demoted? Does Kearney really want him there given there is a potential to directly or indirectly undermine him?

If this marriage of coach and assistant is in anyway manufactured there is recipe for more trouble and instability ahead. If it is to work both Kearney and McFadden must genuinely want to work together - they'll say all the right things publicly but behind the scenes there is a need for both to want each other.

And what is the career ambition of McFadden now? Does he still want to be a head coach?
Do the Warriors see him as someone who could come back again next time around after he gains more experience as an assistant?

Rick Stone and Newcastle did the same thing on either side of Wayne Bennett's appointment. If McFadden harbours a desire to be head coach again and the Warriors can't see themselves going down that path again they should definitely go their separate ways now.

The payout cost of one year's worth of McFadden's salary will pale into comparison of having to split the coaching staff up mid-season and risk more drama at the club next season.

Kearney's appointment will polarise fans - he had a failed stint at Parramatta but a long and successful tenure as Kiwis coach. His time at the Eels needs to be put into context. The Eels were a mess when he was appointed and while he did little to turn around a bad situation it is hard to imagine the masters such as Craig Bellamy or Bennett doing much better at the time.

Kearney has presided over New Zealand's greatest era - a World Cup win in 2008 and Four Nations triumphs in 2010 and 2014. In public he speaks in clichés and stumbles around questions awkwardly, which gives an impression that he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. The reality is quite different however.

Kearney was renowned for his work ethic, attention to detail and a ruthless pursuit of success - three key ingredients that have been missing from the Warriors in recent years.

He has demonstrated strength in character - a stubbornness that wouldn't relent and select Benji Marshall or Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in the Kiwi set-up no matter how many players went down injured. Kearney certainly has a hard edge about him.

Fans should be cautiously optimistic about this announcement. There are risks with the new set-up and the roster is still not balanced. Even with the likely addition of Kieran Foran in the coming weeks the Warriors don't have the forward pack to match it with the best sides in the competition.

Getting Kearney however might be an incentive for potential forward targets however when players become fair game for 2018 recruitment on November 1.


Playing record

Position: Backrower
264 NRL games, 37 tries
Clubs: Western Suburbs, Sydney: 1992 to 1994, 46 appearances
Auckland Warriors: 1995-1998, 79 appearances
Melbourne Storm: 1999 to 2004, 1 premiership (1999), 139 appearances
Hull (England): 2005: 1 Challenge Cup win, 29 appearances

Kiwis: 1993 to 2004
Test caps: 44 (second in history), 9 tries


Kiwis record

Kiwis: 43 tests, 24 wins, 1 draw, 18 losses, 55.81% success rate
2008 World Cup beating Australia 34-20 in the final
2010 Kiwis defeat Australia in Four Nations final
2014 Kiwis win their second Four Nations title

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 25 Sep 2016 17:32:21 Processing Time: 634ms