Mick Potter in mix for Warriors coaching job

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 26/08/2012

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Australian Super League coach Mick Potter has emerged as a surprise contender for the vacant Warriors head coaching job.

While the Warriors are trying to woo Storm coach Craig Bellamy in a mega-deal reportedly worth as much as $4 million, Potter, currently coaching the Bradford Bulls without pay, could be a strong fall-back option if the club doesn't land the Melbourne "super coach".

Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah did not wish to comment to the Sunday Star-Times on whether an offer had been made to Bellamy.

He also declined to say whether Potter's name had been discussed by the Warriors board as a replacement for Brian McClennan, who was sacked by the club last Monday.

It is understood that Potter interests several members of the Warriors front office, who believe he could replicate what Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire has done in the NRL after moving from Wigan at the end of last season.

If the Warriors missed out on Bellamy, Potter's stocks could rise dramatically because it would take a far smaller financial offer to bring him to Auckland.

After a 201-game first-grade career with the Bulldogs, Dragons and the now-defunct Western Reds, Potter has also coached the Catalans Dragons in 2007 and 2008 and St Helens in 2009 and 2010.

Warriors legend Stacey Jones played under Potter at the Catalans Dragons in 2007, and said he would fit in well at Mt Smart Stadium.

"He is very much in the same mould as some of these Australian blokes that have been through the system," Jones said.

"I certainly think if he was to put his name in there, he'd be able to do a job."

He likened Potter to former Warriors boss Ivan Cleary, in terms of coaching style and manner.

"He's pretty firm. He keeps things pretty close to his chest, doesn't give a lot away but he certainly understands the game."

Queensland State of Origin assistant coach Michael Hagan has also been one of the latest names linked with the vacant Warriors job.

The 48-year-old has a fine coaching pedigree, having coached both the Knights and Eels to NRL grand finals, and winning the title in his first year with the Knights in 2001. Hagan also coached Queensland in 2005 and 2006, and has been Mal Meninga's Origin assistant since 2010.

Bellamy, who is off-contract with the Storm at the end of 2013, said in Melbourne that he was flattered by the reported Warriors' interest but he was currently focused on taking the Storm to a premiership title this season.

"I have made it pretty clear that I have got another year to coach here and I won't be making any decisions on that until at least the end of the year," Bellamy said.

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While the Warriors chase a new first-grade coach, under-20s boss John Ackland has poured cold water on speculation linking him to a potential move to the Panthers.

Ackland, who is attempting to win his third successive Toyota Cup with the Junior Warriors, met former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary following the Warriors' loss to the Panthers last Sunday.

Ackland, who is off-contract with the Warriors at the end of 2013, denied that Cleary sounded him out about a possible move to Penrith.

Meanwhile, one of Ackland's star players in the under-20s since 2010, fullback Omar Slaimankhel, is set to move to Japan for a two-year deal with a Japanese rugby team.

While the identity of the team is unknown, the Sunday Star-Times understands a contract is close to being signed, and that the former Afghan refugee has already toured the club's facilities in Japan.

- Sunday Star Times