Warriors exposed in record losing streak
Scratch Tony Iro's name off any list of potential head coaches for the Warriors next year after he oversaw the final phase of the club's worst losing streak with an appalling loss to the Canberra Raiders in Auckland yesterday.
The Warriors lost their eighth successive match and it came in familiar fashion, surrendering a 22-6 lead to lose 42-22 and end the NRL season 14th with twice as many losses as wins.
They coughed up six unanswered tries in the second spell, overwhelmed by a Raiders side who continued their hot streak, notching a fifth successive victory and their eighth out of their last 10 matches to march from 15th all the way to the playoffs.
Iro, having taken on a caretaker's role after Brian McClennan was sacked two weeks ago, had an unenviable task but came up with no answers to stop the rot.
Last week's 38-6 thrashing by the Dragons in Wollongong was followed by another embarrassing surrender in front of the home crowd. That must be the end of his chances at the top, given he's also been involved as an assistant all year.
To his credit Iro didn't hide from anything and his honesty was brutal in assessing the shambles. “There's definitely a soft edge to the side, there's no hiding from that,” he said.
“This season, for one reason or another, for 80 minutes we haven't been able to compete physically or mentally.
“We have to go away and come back with a harder edge.”
Iro wouldn't be drawn on his future. “I'm unsure . . . I haven't been worried by that. I've been trying to get some results in the last two games. I'm devastated for the boys, especially Lucky [departing veteran Micheal Luck], he's heartbroken because he has done everything for this club.
"But unfortunately that's where we are as a team . . . There isn't a hard edge about us . . . For one reason or another we just aren't good enough.”
Asked if fitness was an issue with their repeated second half failings, Iro said: “It certainly looks like it.
“Confidence is a massive thing.
"Obviously we haven't got much at the moment. They did a good job for 40 minutes but I suppose those nightmares from games past this year came back to haunt us again. I suppose if there is any consolation, it's that there's been some real hard lessons learned by some young boys.”
Iro said tough training was the only answer to righting the problems.
“Training and being accountable to each other.
"This side has the potential to be a really good footy team but as I said, we have got a soft edge to us at the moment. I'm pretty sure that regardless of what happens [from here] . . . they are in for a tough pre-season.”
Skipper Simon Mannering, returning after witnessing five losses from the sidelines with an ankle injury, was shattered by what he had experienced.
“I don't know if it's just fitness . . . attitude. You can train all you like but it's whether you want it on the field. I think of late we have got into the habit of defending very poorly. Whether that's fitness or not, we are just in a rut at the moment,” Mannering said.
“We have to put it to rest now and it's going to be a tough preseason and it's going to have to be.” Mannering didn't duck from Iro's call that the side was “soft”.
“He has hit the nail on the head. We have created a habit over the last eight weeks of switching off and being soft.
"We have to make a habit of being a lot tougher.”
The ugliest thing about yesterday's collapse was that it wasn't unbelievable.
It almost seemed inevitable, especially when the Raiders scored straight after halftime.
It was a damning way to send off Luck and fellow first-graders James Maloney and Lewis Brown.
And it was witnessed by many of the club's “old boys” who were paraded around the ground before the start of the match.
Some, like many of the crowd, must have left early, shaking their heads in dismay.