Elliott's demise no laughing matter for Warriors

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 19:19 07/04/2014
Matt Elliott
Getty Images
JUMPED OR PUSHED?: Matt Elliott's reign as Warriors coach is over just five games into his second season at the helm.

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Not even Beau Ryan could lighten the mood when he entered the visitors' dressing room at Remondis Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Cronulla Sharks wing, who dovetails try-scoring with his appointment as the NRL's resident comedian, soon realised his sense of humour was no laughing matter in the aftermath of another embarrassing capitulation by the New Zealand Warriors.

Ryan, who is currently injured, was barely acknowledged by the Warriors that had not yet trudged out to the team bus with their headphones on and heads down.

Before taking a "selfie" with Konrad Hurrell, Ryan approached Matt Elliott and offered a conciliatory hand - not a zinging one-liner - and evidently a word or two of commiseration.

Elliott barely registered their brief exchange, the personable Australian still looked mystified - traumatised even - by the 80 minutes of sadly comical football he had just witnessed from the sidelines as the Sharks won for the first time in 2014.

The sequence of events is unconfirmed, though at some point on Saturday night following Cronulla's 37-6 win Elliott had a more pertinent conversation with the Warriors chairman Bill Wavish during which, according to the club's director of football Dean Bell, he agreed to step down.

Elliott had attempted to put on his customary brave face in the aftermath of yet another inexcusable collective performance - for 5 minutes and 36 seconds he sat alongside Simon Mannering defending the indefensible.

Asked why the team slumped dramatically after an encouraging 42-18 win over the Wests Tigers seven days before, a perplexed Elliott could only offer:  "That's a really interesting question, I certainly didn't see any of that in our preparation at all.

"We're definitely going to have to do some really heavy research into that," he said, presumably unaware Andrew McFadden was poised to head that inquisition.

Despite the scoreline and statistics warranting it, Elliott's sense of loyalty still prevented him putting the boot in.

He even argued: "One thing that wasn't absent was a heap of effort."

In reality that assessment did not deviate significantly from Elliott's first post-mortem as Warriors coach at Parramatta Stadium on March 9, last year - an opening round 30-point calamity against the wooden spoon-owning Eels that at least warned the 48-year-old of what was in store.

A two-point loss against the eventual premiers a week later was also indicative of the Warriors' inconsistency given those gains against the Sydney Roosters were diminished by a 28-4 loss to a Sharks side embroiled by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping investigation.

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Under Elliott, the Warriors lost six of their first seven games, though worse was to come last July when Penrith - his previous head coaching gig - inflicted a club-record 62-6 hammering.

During that debacle Elliott subbed playmaker Shaun Johnson while the Panthers piled on 36 points in the second half - a rare instance where he had the resolve to publicly admonish his non-performers.

Ironically that drubbing inspired Johnson - and his teammates - to build a five-match winning sequence that included the Roosters, beaten Grand Finalists Manly and Brisbane twice, albeit during the State of Origin window.

With six rounds to the Warriors were tracking for the finals and considered a team to fear but they comfortably eased those anxieties with four losses, including a meek sign-off against lowly St George-Illawarra in Wollongong, when there was still a mathematical possibility of making the top eight.

There was also misplaced optimism leading into the 2014 campaign given the club had imported star fullback Sam Tomkins from Wigan, yet in a chilling rerun of last season a rebuilding Parramatta won by 20 in round one.

A 31-12 loss to the Dragons at Eden Park on March 15 then prompted management to hold crisis talks with the players, a 'please explain' was issued although the answer was already apparent considering their tendency to frustrate Elliott.

Ultimately the former Canberra, Bradford and Penrith mentor was the default option to take over full time from Brian McClennan, a successful Kiwis coach who didn't see out his inaugural season in 2012.

Club owners Owen Glenn and Eric Watson were desperate for Craig Bellamy; the players had a preference for Tony Iro and now, according to a release from the Warriors today, Elliott wanted out.

As his tenure reached its zenith at the Panthers, a fatalistic Elliott memorably pretended to hang himself with a tie following another loss.

Whether or not he bit the bullet or faced the firing squad is a matter of conjecture though the outcome is the same - he may live to consider it a merciful release.

- Fairfax Media

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