Iro hangs in as Warriors try to woo Bellamy
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE AND CHRIS BARCLAY
The New Zealand Warriors have not given up on prising super coach Craig Bellamy from the Melbourne Storm and club stalwart Tony Iro could be an unlikely benefactor as the extension of his caretaker role is under consideration for 2013.
The prolonged search for a replacement for the sacked Brian McClennan took a further twist yesterday when hot prospect David Kidwell - Bellamy's assistant at the new NRL premiers - reportedly pulled out of the race citing frustration with a slow-moving appointment process.
Kidwell joins Stephen Kearney and Justin Morgan to pull back after being interviewed by Warriors management - Tim Sheens resisted the Auckland-based club's advances after losing the top job at Wests Tigers.
As the contenders diminish, the probability of Iro retaining the head coach's role for the 2013 season has increased as the Warriors yearn to snare Bellamy once his deal with the Storm expires at the end of next year.
Bellamy has reportedly been offered a mega deal in the vicinity of A$4 million ($4.98m) over three years - but has remained silent on the prospect of moving across the Tasman and leaving a stable of players including superstars Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.
The veil of secrecy also remains intact at Mt Smart as the Warriors executive and board work behind the scenes to jag Bellamy in what would be a remarkable coup for the club.
Bellamy's agent, John Fordham, did little to squash the rumours about his client's long-term future yesterday, declaring: “Any discussions we have with any party concerning any of our clients are confidential. On that basis I am unable to throw any light on Craig Bellamy's future other than to say he will be coaching the Storm in 2013.”
Iro has been at the club for six years, the last three as an assistant alongside Ivan Cleary and then Brian McClennan.
He has the respect of the playing group, although it was hardly apparent when, after taking charge for the last two games of this season the Warriors were thumped 38-6 at St George Illawarra and 42-22 by Canberra.
Iro's focus is Saturday night's trans-Tasman test in Townsville but, as the team relocated from their base in Cairns, he did cautiously entertain the prospect of continuing to act as caretaker coach if and when Bellamy is nailed down for 2014 and beyond.
Asked if a full season as a stop-gap measure appealed, the Kiwis assistant coach said: “Yeah, possibly. here's a lot of things to weigh up around that as well. There's still staff to be appointed and rosters and so on.
“Whoever goes in for that one year still has to do a job. They've got to make sure they're resourced right and they get what they require for those 12 months.”
Iro might gain a clearer gauge of his future when he returns to the office on Monday and admitted the current state of flux was a distraction for the playing group, including Kiwis Simon Mannering, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino and Shaun Johnson.
“They're the ones that have got to do all the hard work, starting in two or three weeks. I'm pretty sure anyone would like a bit of surety and certainty about what's happening. It's not ideal for players and the other staff, Craig's decision has made things sit on the back-burner a little bit.”
With pre-season training - a cornerstone of any successful title bid - looming Iro's intimate knowledge of the Warriors set-up should be advantageous; Kidwell is understood to have ruled himself out because of concern at the time available to get his structures in place.
Iro has negotiated the interview process as McClennan's full-time successor, his enthusiasm undiminished by presiding over two of the Warriors worst performances of a forgettable year.
“It's the best job in the world. Sure there's a lot of pressure on you, but in any job you do you want to test yourself against the best and in our trade, this is the best. If I do get the opportunity I'll be doing my best to enjoy it and push the team a little bit further.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
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