NRL: Positive signs as Elliott moves to win over fans, players

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Matthew Elliot. Photo / Getty Images
Matthew Elliot. Photo / Getty Images

It's early days but the signs are positive enough for Matt Elliott at the Warriors.

He isn't the supercoach the fans wanted, nor is he Tony Iro, the man the players wanted. So the veteran Australian league coach's major challenge is to win over two significant sets of doubters.

The pudding tasting won't take place until early March when on-field hostilities resume but so far, so good.

Publicly the players are all saying the right things, but we can discount that. Unless someone has a strong wish to depart in short order, they ain't exactly going to say the new guy is a chump.

Privately, though, the players seem to have been quietly impressed by Elliott. One senior player admitted to the Herald he had held a few reservations when Elliott's appointment was confirmed. But Elliott's ideas have so far been well received and the team is buying into a vastly more demanding pre-season regime.

Players have been turning up at their Millennium Institute training base at 7.30am for a day that often ends at 5.30pm. The sessions have been varied and demanding.

Ruben Wiki's full-time presence is having a marked effect.

The ultimate trainer in his playing days, Wiki is proving a harsh task master as he implements head trainer's Carl Jennings' programmes. Corner cutting is outlawed. If anyone bludges on a drill, the entire group is forced to repeat it. The collective softness that Iro lamented in his two-game spell as caretaker coach has been banished. That said, pre-season is always the time for unbridled optimism.

Elliott is yet to be tested and by his own admission he hasn't even started coaching yet. Monday will be his first day with the whistle in hand. So he's yet to get a handle on where his players' strengths and weaknesses lie, and what makes each individual tick. That level of detail will come, but for now Elliott's demeanour is very much that of a man with much to do and precious little time to do it.

Elliott cut his teeth helping Brian Smith transform Bradford from a club that largely made up the numbers to a club with a large number of titles, so he has a track record of establishing successful systems on foreign shores. But given his spells with Canberra and Penrith weren't nearly as productive, this could be his last shot as a top-level coach, certainly in the NRL.

And having inherited a club riding a record eight-match losing streak, with an ownership that fired the last coach after less than a season, if he feels he needs to get everything right this time around, he's probably right.

- NZ Herald

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