Kearney stands firm as Eels fans vent anger

'He's knocked down the foundations'

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 08:33 09/05/2012
Stephen Kearney
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STAYING ON: Stephen Kearney has apologised to Eels fans and says the club will strive to improve on a disastrous start to the season.

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Besieged Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney was contrite and apologetic but he did not tender the resignation many fans demanded when facing disgruntled Eels members at the club's AGM last night.

Many of the estimated 150 supporters who converged on the Parramatta Leagues Club wanted Kearney to stand down or be sacked by the club's board in response to the Eels worst start to a season in 52 years.

One fan who had travelled south from Newcastle said he was hoping to see "pressure brought to bear on the board to get rid of our coach".

A female supporter wearing the club jersey was scathing of Kearney's reign telling Fox Sports: "I think it's disgraceful. He's knocked down the foundations of this club and he's starting to build it from scratch."

However, those fans would depart disappointed after Kearney, board members and players presented a united front in the face of strident criticism.

"I wanted to begin by saying I'm not here to pretty up something that's not pretty, because the reality is you can't," Kearney said via a club statement.

"It has been the worst start for this football club in 50 or so years, and frankly some of our performances have been totally unacceptable.

"I make no excuses on our part the facts are we have simply not been good enough.

"I take responsibility for where we are as a team; I also take the responsibility for leading us out of this difficult situation we find ourselves in," sad Kearney, who has witnessed only seven wins during a 33-match tenure that started with victory against the New Zealand Warriors in the opening round of the 2011 NRL season.

"I have had to make some tough decisions over the last little period and no doubt will have to make some more in the near future, but rest assured every decision I make, I make for the benefit of the team and ultimately the club."

Kearney was again endorsed by the club's decision makers during a closed meeting that ran about two hours.

Parramatta chief executive Bob Bentley told the audience a coaching director would not be foisted upon Kearney in a bid to arrest a slump that has yielded just one win from nine matches.

Former Parramatta head coach Jason Taylor - who is currently mentoring the Sydney Roosters under-20s team - was identified as a potential assistant for Kearney but the Kiwis coach resisted the initiative.

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"The Board's aim through discussions we've had with Steve was to ascertain whether he felt he had the adequate resources at his disposal and if any extra support was needed," Bentley said.

"As a result of these discussions Steve and the Board are confident we have the right people in place, and there will be no change to our coaching structure.

"As a club we are united behind Steve and our players to pull us through this difficult period.

"We have a long term vision to build this club into one that consistently challenges for a top four position each and every year, and while it may be difficult to see at this current point in time, we're confident the structure we have in place will reap dividends."

Eels Chairman Roy Spagnolo, recruitment manager Peter Nolan and retirement-bound captain Nathan Hindmarsh also took questions from the floor.

Hindmarsh fronted the media when leaving the meeting and reiterated the players were supportive of Kearney.

"We've got a great coaching staff that's given us all the right tools. At the end of the day it's up to the players to do the job and at the moment we're not doing it," he told Fox Sports.

The veteran second rower said the fans, some of whom were on the verge of tears as they entered the auditorium, had been passionate rather than angry during the forum.

"They want a team that's winning and we understand their frustration as players, we want to be winning games as well," he said.

"We're obviously working hard to change the results, like I've said for many weeks.

"I feel their frustration."

- Stuff

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