Ivan Cleary puts boot into Warriors top brass
CHRIS BARCLAY AND DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Discarded NZ Warriors coach Ivan Cleary has expressed solidarity with the squad's leadership group and condemned club management as infighting escalates following the sudden demise of his latest successor, Matt Elliott.
Cleary, who was controversially allowed to join Penrith after leading the Warriors to the 2011 NRL Grand Final, has watched the dramas unfold at Mt Smart with regret since a calamitous defeat to Cronulla in Sydney last Saturday cost Elliott his job just five rounds into the season.
The Australian's dignified exit on Monday has not been replicated at managerial level where the fractious relationship between co-owners Eric Watson and Owen Glenn has finally emerged in the public arena.
Warriors chairman Bill Wavish and chief executive Wayne Scurrah - who many fans vilify for failing to accede to Cleary's terms for a contract extension - also figure prominently in a backlash that the club's most experienced coach fears will adversely affect the playing roster's on-field performances.
Notably Cleary refused to gloat after the Panthers inflicted a record 62-6 defeat on his former club last year, and that loyalty was undiminished yesterday as he blamed head office for the club's slide.
"There's been two coaches sacked [Brian McClennan and Elliott] in the last two years, a bunch of people leaving the the club ... I wouldn't be worrying too much about what we see on the field. I think Blind Freddy could see it's [the] management," he said.
"There has to be question marks over management and ownership. There's been some weird things said this week and if there's problems up the top they're going to find their way to the field."
Cleary had spoken to captain Simon Mannering to offer support.
"He's doing it pretty tough. I feel for the players that I know personally. I know they're giving everything they've got," said Cleary, who reiterated he did not want to leave the Warriors - though now has no regrets.
Cleary would not offer any solutions and only smiled then turned towards the Panthers gym when asked if it was timely for the Warriors to revamp their management structure.
His comments came during day two of the captivating Watson and Glenn slanging match.
Watson and Wavish were adamant the process to sack Elliott was done in a manner that suited Glenn, who did not want to be involved and had a board representative to handle his interests.
Glenn claimed that was untrue and that he had been led to believe Elliott had resigned.
"I agreed with Eric Watson that as shareholders we needed to be directly involved in major decisions regarding the Warriors management, selection of players and the coach.
"Eric Watson subsequently reneged on this arrangement," Glenn said, via a statement.
In a bizarre start to the day both owners, who haven't spoken to each other since Elliott's departure, appeared on rival New Zealand radio stations at the same time.
There is clearly a divide here that will eventually split the ownership of the club - something both agreed they had already been discussing.
Glenn said he wanted to buy Watson's 50 per cent stake but the price was "grossly excessive".
He then offered his stake to Watson at the same price which wasn't accepted, creating a stalemate that still needs to be resolved.
"Like any partnership, if it's not working and somebody's either bending or breaking the bows, everybody looks at what they're doing in that partnership and if you're not getting anywhere, not having a lot fun at it and not reaching your objectives, there's a lot more to offer in life," Glenn said.
Asked if he would pick up the other half of the shares, Watson said: "I'm happy to have a partner. It has to be someone [or a syndicate] thinking the same way.
"However this comes to an end, it shouldn't affect the club. Shareholders' matters should be kept in private, the board manages matters. We are very sound financially."
Watson was bemused by Glenn's reaction to the coaching change.
"It is a strange situation . . . he is probably damaging the value of those shares at the same time."
Meanwhile, Elliott is preparing to relocate across the Tasman, without antagonising the situation.
"I have absolutely no bitterness towards the club, in fact I am very grateful for what they have done for me and my family," he wrote, in his final statement on the matter.
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