So far so good for coach Andrew McFadden
This weekend marks the halfway point in the NRL season and last night Andrew McFadden was in charge of the Warriors for the eighth time since taking over from Matt Elliott. Ahead of the game against the Rabbitohs in Perth, McFadden spoke to DAVID LONG about the season so far and his hopes for the second half of the campaign.
AT A GLANCE WINNERS AND LOSERS UNDER McFADDEN
The change of head coach at the Warriors has been good news for some players and bad for others. Sunday News picks out the three players who've seen their game time advance under McFadden's watch and three who've seen their careers go backwards.
One of Andrew McFadden's first moves when he became head coach was to take Ikahihifo out of the NSW Cup side and promote him to first grade footy and he's made every post a winner in the NRL.
Helped by the injury to Glen Fisiiahi, Fusitua has been outstanding since given a spot in the starting team by McFadden. He is keeping Kevin Locke out of the team now and it will be hard for Fisiiahi to dislodge him when he returns.
Laumape was mucked around by being stuck on the wing last year, but McFadden has realised he's best used as a centre and he has formed a formidable combination on the edge with Manu Vatuvei.
Currently residing in the 'Where are they now file'. Nielsen has been the biggest name casualty so far and everything points to him being moved on at the end of the year.
Matt Elliott compared him to Laurie Daley at the start of the year, but he appears to be persona non grata at the Warriors now. Regardless of how well he's playing in the NSW Cup he's not getting a look in and has been overtaken by Tuimoala Lolohea in McFadden's thinking.
The big young lock played in the first two games of the season for the Warriors and it looked like he'd be the long- term replacement for Todd Lowrie, however he's been stuck playing reserve grade footy for a few months now.
SUNDAY NEWS: You took on the Warriors' head coaching job in early April, what have you made of it so far?
ANDREW McFADDEN: I've seen the stress that can be put on a head coach and I guess I'll be judged over time. I'm enjoying my time at the moment, the group is travelling really well, but there will always be something coming up that puts us under pressure.
SN: Being a new coach you'll obviously want to throw yourself completely into the job, but how are you managing to find the right balance in your life?
AM: I must admit it's difficult at the moment. I've spent the last 10 years refining my method as an assistant coach and with head coaching there's definitely a lot more to it.
It's still something I'm getting my head around and I'd say I'm not as organised as I usually am, but I'm working on that to get better.
SN: Are you learning quickly what works and what doesn't as a head coach?
AM: I'm learning heaps all of the time. One of the things I know that has to happen is having good people around me, that's critical and I believe I have.
It's a matter of my communication with those people and that as an organisation and a staff, we all operate most effectively, because ultimately that's what the players feel and see.
What they do on the field is a direct result of what we give them.
SN: Has your relationship with the players changed now you've moved from assistant to head coach?
AM: Football is football and outside of that you can do what you want. When I'm in the job I'm the head coach and I'm there to give them the information they need to hear, whether that's positive or negative. But when we're away from the training complex and we're travelling or something I speak to them just like another person.
I like to build up relationships with them and get to know them off the field as well, it's really important in understanding how they all operate.
SN: We're at the halfway point of the season this weekend, overall, how do you think the Warriors are tracking?
AM: We're giving ourselves an opportunity. We obviously didn't start well, but we're six and six at the moment and you can see that if you drop two or three games in a row you can fall down the ladder quickly. If we win three in a row we climb quickly.
So it's a critical part of the season, especially with Origin going on and all the byes. You really have to capitalise on this period because it's going to be tough at the end of the year if you've got to make up those points.
SN: Last year we saw the Warriors having to play catch up at the end of the season, so clearly you don't want to be in that position again?
AM: You often find at the end of the year that you become pretty desperate if you're chasing points. It would be nice to know you're at the right end of the table and you can make decisions about where you're going in the future, as opposed to just trying to hang on.
SN: What players have impressed you the most with their work ethic and commitment since you became head coach?
AM: I've been impressed with all of the group to be honest. They've really responded. It wasn't easy with the transition between coaches and it was a distraction, but since that time they've really focused on performance on the field.
It's been a collective, not an individual thing, that's why we're getting the results at the moment and it's important that we maintain that focus.
SN: How important was it that the senior players like Simon Mannering, Jacob Lillyman and Sam Rapira got on board with what you wanted to do at the club?
AM: That was a great message for us, that they still believed in this this group and the Warriors and that they still want to do something pretty special here.
It's been great that we've pretty much locked in all of our squad and we can definitely focus on the future here.
SN: How far away are Glen Fisiiahi and Thomas Leuluai from playing again?
AM: Glen is still a way off, he's still a bit of an unknown at the moment, it's very frustrating for him but it's in the hands of the medical team.
Tommy is looking really good, he's probably a week or two away, we'll reassess him at the start of the week, we've got a bye but there could be an opportunity to give him a hitout in our NSW Cup side.
SN: Would Thomas come straight back in for Chad Townsend at five-eighth once he's back?
AM: We'll have to see, Chad is doing a terrific job at the moment, but also I know how much Tommy can add to our team.
It's not an easy situation and it's something we'll have to discuss as the coaching staff. Chad got dealt some bad news earlier in the season, but he certainly responded and we'll have to wait and see when that decision comes up.
SN: Do you find it harder to make changes to the team when it's going well?
AM: It makes it tough if players are doing well in all grades. When people are underperforming, they're making the decision, not me really. But when everyone's playing well it's a difficult balance and sometimes there are some hard calls that need to be made, but they will always be done in the best interests of the team.