Tony Iro wasn't alone in cringing on the sidelines as the New Zealand Warriors' NRL woes deepened on Saturday night - Simon Mannering shared the caretaker coach's sense of powerlessness as the club's dramatic fall from grace nears its conclusion.
Dressed in the team-issue grey hoodie, the first choice captain and second rower might have been tempted to cover his head and slink off as St George Illawarra's unanswerable second half onslaught expanded the losing margin to 38-6 at WIN Stadium.
There was an escape route when the tannoy blared “Warning, evacuate now” after the emergency evacuation procedure was triggered accidentally during a 10- minute scoring spree but, like Iro and his support staff, Mannering toughed it out to the bitter end.
“I probably can't give you much,” he said when exiting a muted dressing room. “I just feel sorry for the boys. It's pretty frustrating sitting on the sidelines and not being able to do anything.”
Mannering joined the casualty list after Newcastle fought back from a 19-point deficit to trigger the Warriors inferiority complex. Losses to Manly, North Queensland and Penrith followed before their latest implosion against a Dragons side also out of title contention.
The inspirational veteran had few answers after witnessing a seven-tries-to-one thumping - their seventh on the bounce - and the Dragons highest score since they beat the Wests Tigers 36-12 in round two.
“There was a real good feeling in the shed and through the week at training ... collectively I thought the effort was a lot better to previous weeks," he said.
The match stats suggest otherwise: 42 missed tackles, not a single line break to counter the Dragons 10 while the home side mixed in 22 offloads.
Mannering farewelled Brian McClennan on Tuesday and sympathised with the head coach as he maintains a low profile since his exit.
“That's the last we've seen of Bluey. It's sad to see him go like that, you feel for the guy after putting a lot of effort in,” he said.
Melbourne Storm maestro Craig Bellamy has been mentioned as a high-profile acquisition once his current contract expires at the end of next season though Mannering thought it could be difficult “to drag him from the setup he's got at the moment.”
Mannering endorsed Iro whose job interview in Wollongong represented an unqualified failure.
“I don't think (the loss) would have put him off. He's a guy that's got a lot of respect from the players and I'm sure he'll be involved in the club for many years to come. He wouldn't look out of place,” Mannering said.
Iro certainly looked as glum as his predecessor after the match and would not speculate on his long-term future.
“I'm just keen on getting the side to hopefully perform next week in front of a home crowd. It's been a tough year for our members, we certainly owe them a good performance.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
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