NZ Warriors coach sacking farce grows legs
SARAH HARVEY AND TONY SMITH
The Warriors are a club in crisis tonight with co-owners Owen Glenn and Eric Watson at loggerheads over the sacking of former coach Matt Elliott - a decision Glenn slammed as "diabolical" and "dishonourable".
Glenn, who is looking to sell his shareholding in the Warriors, claimed in a strongly-worded statement earlier today that Elliott was sacked and did not resign and that he did not know the head coach was being dumped.
But Watson and chairman Bill Wavish have hit back, saying that Glenn's board representative took part in the "unanimous" decision and that Glenn had been fully informed.
Watson, who said Elliott was leaving "one way or another", said he was "caught completely by surprise" at Glenn's statement, "which is not something that makes me very happy". He said it was "astonishing" that Glenn made his comments at a time he was looking to sell his interests in the Warriors.
Wavish said he met Elliott on Sunday morning "with the full knowledge and unanimous support of the board", including "Sir Owen's representative, who subsequently told me that Sir Owen was informed".
"Sir Owen had previously asked not to be consulted directly on decisions as his shareholding was held in trust."
Glenn said he was sorry to hear Elliott was being replaced by assistant-coach Andrew McFadden and was "sorrier still when I learned that he hadn't, in fact, walked away from the Warriors at all - he didn't jump, he was pushed".
"But what I am most sorry about is the dishonourable treatment of an honourable man."
Glenn conceded results hadn't helped Elliott's cause, especially the 37-6 hiding at Cronulla last weekend.
"Saturday night in Sydney was worse than disappointing," he said.
"However, a decision to axe a coach needs to be scrupulously considered and properly ratified.
"The Matt Elliott I know is not a quitter. And in view of the service he has given to the Warriors and the strength of his character, to suggest that he would walk of his own volition is disreputable."
But London-based Watson, who claimed he was "as focused as a laser beam" on turning the Warriors around, strenuously refuted Glenn's "quite unusual statement" in a Radio Sport interview tonight. "My understanding is [Glenn's statement] it's not accurate or correct."
He said Glenn had "asked not to be fully involved", but he had been informed by his representative.
Watson said, "for whatever reason, Owen's had enough of being involved with the Warriors, and we've been in discussions for some months about buying his shareholding off him".
Watson said he was "perturbed" at Glenn's comments, which were "not very helpful".
Watson said a decision to change coaches was made on Saturday night "within an hour or two" after the Warriors were thrashed by the previously winless Sharks, and that "in the best interests of the club" McFadden should take over for the rest of the season.
Watson said it was "semantics, to some extent" as to whether Elliott resigned or was sacked.
"Matt met with the chairman Bill Wavish, and they agreed a statement together."
Elliott was told he "could resign, or his employment would be terminated".
"One way or the other, he was going. It's pretty obvious, isn't it?"
Watson, who is "more hands-on [at the Warriors] than I'd like to be right now", said Elliott would "probably still be the coach" if the Warriors had beaten the Sharks. His target had been to win "the majority of the first half-dozen games".
But everyone at the club needed to be held accountable.
He said Elliott had done some good things in rebuilding the club in terms of processes and infrastructure around the team. But it was always intended that McFadden would take over from next season.
Watson, who said he had spoken to senior players at the state of the Warriors but declined to say what the players had said, expressed strong faith in McFadden as the Warriors' preferred long-term coach. He also backed chief executive Wayne Scurrah, who was "working hard in very trying conditions" and had helped the club "triple" its revenues and grow its fan base.
Meanwhile, Elliott perhaps surprisingly does not appear bitter about his short, sharp shift.
He told Sydney's Telegraph he wants to coach again and backs McFadden to do a good job with his old team.
"I'm handling it OK. In the grown-up world, you have to take this stuff on the chin," he told the Telegraph.
"Whether I knew it was coming or not, it wasn't going to change it, so the best way is to be respectful of that.
"The decision has been made. It doesn't matter what I think. I'm getting on with the game."
At training today McFadden appeared to have quickly taken a hold of the players despite admitting it had been a torrid week.
"It's been pretty full on. I must admit it hasn't been easy but we have got the right people now and are really focused on this weekend."
- Fairfax Media
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