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

Chris Rattue: Warrriors boss Eric Watson still owes me a bottle of wine

Warriors GM Jim Doyle and owner Eric Watson talk to Shaun Johnson during training. Photo / Dean Purcell
Warriors GM Jim Doyle and owner Eric Watson talk to Shaun Johnson during training. Photo / Dean Purcell

Winners are grinners, but not me. A wry smile had to do in this case.

I won a big bet - big for me, that is - against club owner Eric Watson when the Warriors failed to make the NRL top-eight playoffs, yet again. I've got plenty of issues, but gambling has never been one of them. Thankfully. You can lose an awful lot in a very short space of time. But winning a bet against a club I want to succeed didn't feel like a true victory, although saving $400 on posh plonk for Watson was a relief.

What I found is that a bet can overshadow the enjoyment of a season. When the Warriors won, when they scored, when they defended bravely (just kidding there) I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. When Parramatta were docked competition points - which should have improved the Warriors' playoff chances - it felt unfair. It became easy to take things like refereeing decisions too personally.

Loyalties were uncomfortably divided when it came to a team I have long wanted to succeed.

The season was intense, interesting, but not the usual fun. The gambling days, brief as they have been, are well and truly over.

But if I was a betting man... the Warriors should be at longer odds than necessary for 2017 after events this week.

The appointment of Stephen Kearney as the new head coach came as a shock of sorts because Ivan Cleary was far and away the best choice among available candidates.

Cleary has coached two under-performing clubs - the Warriors and Panthers - into the playoffs on five occasions out of eight. He took those nutty Warriors all the way to a grand final. He will be an even wiser coach now.

Kearney is a really good man who has had the best of coaching tutors and I hope it works out, but he was a disaster as Parramatta's head coach.

His Kiwis record is very good, but there is a difference between club and representative coaching. Take the case of Kevvy "Good Bloke" Walters, who has guided Queensland to another State of Origin victory but wouldn't get near an NRL head coaching position.

Putting Kevvy in charge of Queensland was like getting a man in a Hawaiian shirt and holding a martini to drive a tank. The tank just kept on rolling, and Kevvy kept on smiling.

In a contrasting case, Melbourne Storm supremo Craig Bellamy is among the finest club coaches of any code anywhere in the world. But Bellamy's State of Origin record is two wins from nine. Some, like Phil Gould, are built for both and some aren't.

Why, why, why Kearney over Cleary? His Kiwi passport has overridden common sense.

Cleary left the Warriors under tense circumstances but Watson assured me there was no bad blood. Rather, Watson did not believe in going back to a former coach.

The more likely explanation is that Route One for chief executive Jim Doyle is to re-brand the club with a band of old Kiwi comrades. Troubled Kieran Foran is next, and that is also a signing worth challenging, although it has great potential.

Foran in his prime would have been a great buy. But Foran in his best space wouldn't have joined the Warriors. Foran still has issues to deal with. The one thing he can't run from is himself and he left Auckland at a young age, so it is not his home.

Watson did what I expected him to, when he visited NZME for a series of interviews today. He wanted to double our wager for next season. He's a man who can afford to keep doubling the bet, until he strikes victory. No thanks, Eric, and stop gambling. Compared to Cleary, Kearney is a crazy punt for my money.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

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


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 22 Oct 2016 17:52:15 Processing Time: 888ms