Matthew Elliott has cash, salary cap leeway

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 14/10/2012
Matthew Elliott
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BIG TASK: Matthew Elliott has signed a two-year contract to take over as head coach at the Warriors.

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Outside backs are top of Matt Elliott's shopping list and the new Warriors coach says he won't hesitate to use Feliti Mateo as cover in the halves.

Just a day after being confirmed to take over from the axed Brian McClennan at New Zealand's only NRL club, Elliott was wasting little time in his new job.

He mixed house-hunting yesterday with a chance to talk over his management options with the club's front office.

And he wasn't shy to tell the Sunday Star-Times where he might be spending some of the money promised by his bosses with plenty of room on the salary cap to bolster the 2013 squad.

"We look a little skinny in the outside backs at the moment. We need more to give us a bit more depth and competition there," the 47-year-old said.

He stressed he was satisfied with the core of the squad, noting they had carried the club to the grand final 12 months earlier. It was a matter of getting the best out of them again.

In terms of buying, he wants the best players available, regardless.

"Rather than looking to fill holes, we should go out and find the best players that are available at the moment and go and get them.

"There are players out there, probably more than we know because clubs will be looking to offload. We will do some extensive research, I have got a few guys in mind."

He acknowledged the loss of playmaker James Maloney but was happy to inherit the signing of Thomas Leuluai and said there were other options to bolster the halves from within the squad through Jerome Ropati and, more pointedly, Mateo.

"I guess with Feleti we have some versatility there. I had a fair bit of success at Canberra playing a guy called Jason Croker at six and playing a different style of footy that could almost work for us. He [Mateo] has a unique skill-set that we need to utilise."

Elliott promised the Warriors' sloppy defence would get a shakeup. He needed to investigate whether it was fitness, technique, coaching or a combination.

"But I can assure you it will be worked on. Defence is half the game and it will get half our attention."

He believed the Warriors had a "unique game" that could be made more effective by simply cutting down their errors.

Elliott said he had the background through his Thursday Island birthplace and his coaching career to use the club's Polynesian power.

"I believe people are people, we all have our own little nuances but you can't be anything but excited by them," he said, labelling Reuben Wiki and Petro Civoniceva his two favourite players from his previous head coaching roles with Canberra and Penrith.

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He revealed that Wiki had been his sounding board over the status and potential of the Warriors when he considered approaching the club about the job.

Elliott will meet his players this week, return to Sydney on Thursday and be back in Auckland the following Monday.

Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah confirmed some changes would be made now that the coach was in place.

Trainer Craig Walker could be vulnerable given the criticism of last year's pre-season work. Scurrah said while Walker was on holiday he was still on contract.

Elliott's two assistants were still to be confirmed but there is a job for incumbent Tony Iro if he wants it.

“Matt's in charge, he's running it,” Scurrah said of the looming footballing decisions.

Scurrah said he had no issue with some of the players expressing disappointment at Iro missing out on the top job. Iro had overseen most of their careers from the juniors through to the NRL.

“I'd be a little bit disappointed if they didn't have that loyalty, to be honest,” said Scurrah, adding it was now time to start afresh with Elliott.

- Sunday Star Times

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