Hold that axe - Bluey's not done yet

AARON GOILE
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2012
Warriors CEO Wayne Scurrah and coach Brian McClennan.
Getty Images
NO GUARANTEES: Warriors CEO Wayne Scurrah (left) and coach Brian McClennan.

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OPINION: Although many are calling for the axe to be sharpened then wielded Brian McClennan's way, the Warriors should stick by "Bluey" for another NRL season.

No doubt, this year has been an awful one for the club. Although it's a very hotly contested competition, the Warriors' position of 13th of 16 teams with three matches to play, after the brilliance of 2011 when they caught fire and made it to the Grand Final, is a shocking result.

However, sacking the coach halfway through his two-year contract isn't the right path to go down in this instance.

Interesting revelations came out on Thursday, when it was unveiled that Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney would be hosted at the Warriors' game tomorrow and would be talking to the club about a possible position among the coaching staff for next year.

Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said McClennan was involved in the process of approaching Kearney, the former Parramatta Eels coach and Melbourne Storm assistant, and it seems as though the move is designed to strengthen resources to improve results.

Much of the Warriors' poor recent form has to fall on the players' shoulders - shoulders which perhaps should be feeling more pain than they are from the tackles that should be made.

That defence, as well as mental instability, have been the glaring problems for them this season. While coaches can implement defensive patterns and select the players they think would be best suited, they can't be on the field to line up and make hits on the opponents or be the ones to keep their cool in the cauldron of play.

Many of the Warriors have come up through the club system, from the Toyota Cup Under-20s competition, which is a fillip for the organisation, but perhaps has had an unfortunate negative impact on the team's performance.

Konrad Hurrell, Carlos Tuimavave, Omar Slaimankhel, Sam Lousi, Sebastine Ikahihifo and Ben Henry have all debuted in the top side this season after making their way up from the juniors side which has won back-to-back titles the past two years.

But a distinguishable feature of the Toyota Cup is its penchant for large scores, which obviously stems from a lack of intense defence.

And that it is where the step up appears to be testing out these youngsters the most, as they are getting caught out by slipping off a tackle here or making a poor defensive read there, having previously been able to get away with that by hitting back with a few bulldozing runs leading to tries.

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Sure, McClennan didn't have to pick these young players, but there wasn't much else for him to turn to, including in the Auckland Vulcans feeder team.

And although all teams get hit by injuries, when tackling maestros Micheal Luck, Nathan Friend and Simon Mannering spend extended periods on the sideline, it begins to tell.

McClennan probably didn't have a huge say in recruitment for this season when he was announced as coach last August, but he has gone about plugging some gaps for next year with the signings of Thomas Leuluai and the Melbourne Storm duo of Dane Nielsen and Todd Lowrie - players who have been around a while at top level.

And while getting rid of Krisnan Inu now appears an absolute debacle, considering his superb form for the top of the table Bulldogs, Inu wasn't offering much for the Warriors before his move.

McClennan has a proven track record of finding immediate success with teams, so that could be seen as a worry, when it appeared all the foundations had been laid out for him at the Warriors.

In his first year in charge of the British Super League's Leeds Rhinos in 2008 he guided them to the title before claiming it again the following season, then taking them to within one game of another grand final appearance in 2010.

With the Kiwis, McClennan was appointed in 2005 and guided New Zealand to a shock Tri-Nations title, while the following year he also took the Auckland Lions to Bartercard Cup glory.

So all this instant losing business is a bit foreign to the 50-year-old.

But in the NRL a coach's first year usually results in missing the finals.

This season has seen half of the clubs take on new coaches, so expectedly there are mixed results.

Des Hasler has taken over at the Bulldogs (currently first on the table), Michael Maguire at the Rabbitohs (third), Geoff Toovey at the Sea Eagles (fourth), Wayne Bennett at the Knights (ninth), Steve Price at the Dragons (12th), Cleary at the Panthers (15th) and then there's the Eels, who have a caretaker coach in Brad Arthur after Kearney was sacked following a year-and-a-half of terrible results.

Ivan Cleary's reign at the Warriors began in 2006 with a 10th, and he then went on to record finals appearances in four of the next five seasons.

A coach, while still accountable, should be granted more than just one campaign to be able to work closely with players he isn't very familiar with and develop a winning style of play.

Bluey is a passionate man and will be hurting that this season has turned sour.

He should be given the chance to show he has the nous and fortitude of a top-class coach, so let him be the man to turn things sweet next year.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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