Parramatta torture ends for Stephen Kearney
Stephen Kearney conceded another inevitable defeat today, at the pristine ground where his NRL coaching aspirations turned to dust.
His 41-game ordeal as the Parramatta Eels head coach effectively ended when he
fronted the media at Parramatta Stadium.
Ideally Kearney would have been talking optimistically about his side's prospects against the competition-leading Melbourne Storm - the club where he won a premiership ring as a player in 1999 before returning to launch his coaching career as Craig Bellamy's assistant.
But Kearney instead confirmed the obvious - his reign has ended prematurely, more than a year remains on his contract.
Despite media speculation yesterday that claimed Kearney had been sacked by the board he and chief executive Bob Bentley emphasised the Eels latest coaching casualty leaves willingly.
Kearney tendered his resignation to Bentley and Parramatta chairman Roy Spagnolo yesterday but he will continue to prepare the side for tomorrow night's round 20 clash against the Storm.
He was vague on when he would actually exit the club; Bentley hoped he would see out the remaining seven games of the regular season.
The 40-year-old appeared tense as he read a prepared statement but once delivered it seemed a burden had been lifted.
Bristling at reports he had been sacked, Kearney said he resigned because "I feel it's the best option for everyone concerned.
"The club gets an opportunity to move forward and I know it's a great relief for my family," he said.
"I've been unable to achieve the success I wanted for the Parramatta Eels and its wonderful supporters and fans. I think it's time to make a change."
Kearney said would discuss his departure date with Bentley and Spagnolo next week and it was clear he was looking forward to devoting more energies to his role as the Kiwis coach.
"What this decision does it gives me an opportunity to be more focused with the Kiwis and assisting the New Zealand Rugby League with the development of the game in New Zealand.
"I might start with trying to convince Kiwis to play for New Zealand," he smiled.
Kearney's demise was forecast by the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday afternoon.
Although Bentley and the board frequently expressed their support for Kearney, a record of just nine wins from 41 games since he was appointed as Daniel Anderson's successor at the end of 2010 ensured his resignation came as no surprise.
Kearney's tenure opened with a victory over the New Zealand Warriors at Eden Park in round one last year but the teams took contrasting paths after that encounter - the Warriors made their second premiership decider while the Eels languished in 14th and only avoided the wooden spoon by beating the Gold Coast in the final round.
Although Chris Sandow, Ben Roberts and Willie Tonga were added to the roster for 2012 the Eels fared even worse and leading into tomorrow's clash with the competition leaders they had won only three games.
Kearney admitted the pressure had built steadily since the season began but he could pinpoint a specific moment where he realised the role was beyond his capabilities.
"There's been a few to be fair. It's been very tough on the family. It's a challenging role in itself the Parramatta job, just with the attention and pressure that comes with it.
"My wife would rather be out on the farm somewhere. It's been a real challenge for her and the family."
Kearney, the fifth head coach to exit Parramatta since 2006, will reportedly receive a pay out in the range of $A450,000.
Parramatta captain Nathan Hindmarsh, who ends his illustrious career at the end of the season, said Kearney had the full support of the playing group.
"We're very disappointed. When it comes to the crunch we're not producing out on the field. We feel partly responsible for the results.
"We wish him all the best for the future. Despite what everyone thinks about results Steve has done a lot of work behind the scenes. He's got the club back to where it needs to go regarding our junior football and our grassroots level."
STEPHEN KEARNEY TIMELINE
A timeline of Stephen Kearney's coaching career at the Parramatta Eels NRL club:-
Oct 6, 2010 - Appointed as head coach for three years; replaces former NZ Warriors and Kiwis coach Daniel Anderson who was sacked a year after taking the Eels to the 2009 NRL grand final
March 12, 2011 - Begins first grade coaching career with a 24-18 victory over the NZ Warriors at Eden Park in the opening round of the season
Sept 3, 2011 - Parramatta finish season with 32-12 win at the Gold Coast Titans; finish 14th with a 6-win 1-draw 17-loss record
Nov 15, 2011 - Chief executive Paul Osbourne, a Kearney supporter, quits the club after a fallout with major sponsor Pirtek
Feb 3, 2012 - Bob Bentley appointed as chief executive officer
Feb 12, 2012 - Bentley indicates he has held informal with Kearney about extending his contract past 2013. "The board and the management feel we've got a great coach in Steve, he's going to be one of the next big things ...he certainly has the potential to be a Wayne (Bennett) or a Craig (Bellamy) , those sort of people."
March 2, 2012 - Parramatta start season with 18-6 loss to the Brisbane Broncos
March 11, 2012 - Veteran fullback Luke Burt plays NSW Cup for Wentworthville after being dropped by Kearney, incensing some Eels fans
March 23, 2012 - Fans boo the team off at halftime and throw objects on to the field when they trail Penrith 23-0 at halftime at Parramatta Stadium; the Eels eventually lose 39-6
March 29, 2012 - Club captain Nathan Hindmarsh announces he will retire at the end of the season
April 18, 2012 - Halfback Chris Sandow, the Eels marquee signing for 2012, is dropped to NSW Cup; fellow half Ben Roberts, an off-season arrival from the Bulldogs, also spends time with Wentworthville.
April 25, 2012 - Prop Shane Shackleton forced to apologise to Kearney after calling the coach a f**kwit on his facebook page. The out of favour forward languished in NSW Cup until he was transferred to Penrith on June 29.
May 5, 2012 - Prop Tim Mannah backs Kearney despite the side's dismal start to the season: "Steve's one of the reasons why I'm so passionate about this club, and anyone who sits down and talks with him for five minutes and talks about the direction we're going in can't help but feel inspired."
May 8, 2012 - Kearney, the first grade squad and the board front disgruntled members and fans at the club's AGM for days after a 46-12 loss to the Bulldogs leaving the Eels with a 1-7 record; calls for the New Zealander to be sacked rejected by the board.
June 3, 2012 - A Sydney Sunday newspaper claims Kearney has two week to keep his job; the following day the Eels upset Cronulla 29-20
June 29, 2012 - Parramatta announce former premiership-winning coach Chris Anderson is joining the club in a supporting role to Kearney, who said his former mentor at the Melbourne Storm was a "welcome reinforcement." He previously resisted a board suggestion that former Eels head coach Jason Taylor returns as an assistant
June 30, 2012 - Anderson in the coach's box as Parramatta lose 20-12 to Newcastle
July 8, 2012 - Premiers Manly avenge 29-20 loss in round 5 by thrashing the Eels 40-24. Kearney denies he has not started to doubt his ability as a coach: "I'm not going to say 'Oh shit, the guys aren't listening' and start questioning whether they are listening to me. That's not an issue."
July 10, 2012 - A Sydney newspaper reveals star fullback Jarryd Hayne was on a shopping trip while his teammates were getting flogged by Manly. Injured in game three of State of Origin, Hayne was given permission by Kearney to take time off, annoying Parramatta chairman Roy Spagnolo who said he should have been in the stands at Brookvale Oval
July 13, 2012 - Bulldogs beat the Eels 32-12, the bottom-placed club firms as wooden spoon favourites with seven matches remaining
July 20, 2012 - Kearney announces his resignation from the senior coaching role at the club and expresses a desire to focus on his other coaching assignment with the Kiwis as they aim to defend their World Cup crown next year. Bentley says a recruitment process is underway, NSW State of Origin coach Ricky Stuart is "on the shopping list"