The blame game: Who is responsible for the Warriors' woes?

As halfback Shaun Johnson goes, so do the fortunes of the New Zealand Warriors.

As halfback Shaun Johnson goes, so do the fortunes of the New Zealand Warriors.

We all know the Warriors haven't been an NRL success over the years, but who's to blame? Marvin France argues it's the players who're responsible, while Hamish Bidwell believes a succession or poor coaches have let the side down.


Blaming the coach has been the default mechanism for those in and around the Warriors for far too long.

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The players say all the right things about taking accountability and not letting everything fall on the poor bloke in charge.

Yet for the most part, it has been left to the coach to carry the can for their consistent failure. Just ask Brian McClennan, Matthew Elliott or Andrew McFadden.

Less than a season into the job and fans have already started to turn on Stephen Kearney. But that cannot be the case this year

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The club is standing by Kearney, and rightfully so. Whether or not you agreed with his appointment, the last thing the Warriors need now is more instability. 

And if there is one thing that has become blatantly obvious it is that it will take much longer than a season to fix the bad habits that have become rooted at the club.

Once a star player here, Stephen Kearney's return to the Warriors hasn't always been a barrel of laughs.

Once a star player here, Stephen Kearney's return to the Warriors hasn't always been a barrel of laughs.

Success in the NRL is all about maximising the value of the salary cap and this is where the Warriors have been getting a raw deal.

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It starts at the top where, apart from Simon Mannering and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, many of the senior players have failed to justify their large salaries.
Shaun Johnson enjoyed an OK season until he went down with a knee injury, but 'OK' does not cut it for a supposed million-dollar man.

Almost two seasons since his arrival, we are still waiting to see Issac Luke perform at a consistent level.

Matthew Elliott was actually one of the better Warriors' coaching appointments.

Matthew Elliott was actually one of the better Warriors' coaching appointments.

Ryan Hoffman tries hard but in his three years at Mt Smart the NSW representative has struggled to match the impact he had at the Storm, which often happens when players leave that system.

Then there is Kieran Foran. Perhaps in a couple of years, if Ata Hingano emerges as a top qualify half, we will look back on Foran's brief stint at the club differently.

But after a strong a start, his form has dropped away and it is debateable whether his signing was worth all the distractions that came with it.
You can blame the club for being blinded by the big names, but they have a right to expect what they paid for.

Just as disappointing has been the lack of improvement from the younger players who have passed the rookie stage of their careers.

Take Sam Lisone and Albert Vete, for example. Now in their third year in the NRL, the Warriors needed the front-row duo to step up if their forward pack was to be competitive.

Both have showed glimpses of promise throughout the season. But all too often they let themselves down with schoolboy errors, Lisone in particular, and it seems that their progress has plateaued.

Sure, part of that comes down to coaching but there comes a time when players have to responsibility for their own development.

The simple solution is to put a broom through the squad. Although, Kearney's reluctance to make mass changes does not speak well for the club's depth.

The salary cap also makes it difficult for a quick turn around which means fans, who have waited long enough for success, will have to remain patient.

But for this year at least, their fury should be directed at the players instead of the coach.


Matthew Elliott is something of a laughing stock in these parts; just another failed New Zealand Warriors coach who came, underwhelmed and then couldn't get another job thereafter.

At least that's the myth that's morphed into fact as time's gone on.

In reality, Elliott was about the most astute coaching signing the club ever made. The Australian came to the club with a sizeable body of work and a career NRL winning percentage in the 40s. His record at the Warriors - 13 wins from 29 games - was consistent with that and yet he was sent packing just five rounds into his second season.

It's hard to see how someone's position becomes untenable when they simply perform as well as they've always done.

Players lose games, but players aren't to blame for the lamentable record and reputation the Warriors have fashioned over the years.

It's coaching that's almost always let the club down and for that it's administrators who have been responsible.

Just run through the names: John Monie, Frank Endacott, Mark Graham, Daniel Anderson, Tony Kemp, Ivan Cleary, Brian McClennan, Elliott, Tony Iro, Andrew McFadden and now Stephen Kearney.

A few, such as Monie, McClennan and Elliott at least had useful a track record as head coaches. For others, the Warriors were their first - and last - go at it.

The club have developed and recruited talented players since their 1995-inception and six seasons of playoffs and no titles is scant reward for that.

We'll never know if proven coaching performers such as Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy, Warren Ryan, Brian Smith, Tim Sheens, Des Hasler, Chris Anderson, Steve Folkes and Graham Murray might've made a difference during that span, because the club always ended up punting on cut-price alternatives.

They got lucky with Daniel Anderson, who came from nowhere to guide them to three consecutive playoff campaigns including a grand final. Cleary's success (three years of playoffs, one grand final) was a similar fluke, really, after Anderson and Kemp were shown the door.

But at a club such as the Warriors, where an absence of culture and work ethic and tenacity are continual issues, appointing novices isn't likely to build anything lasting. You need a man with established playing and training standards and a method of winning football matches.

It doesn't matter that Kearney has worked for Bennett and Bellamy. It's them who've won the games and built the frameworks for success; it's them who know what they're talking about and who inspire absolute confidence in their charges.

A record of achievement lends weight to words and the Warriors - with the exception of Monie - have never hired a coach who'd won anything in the NRL.

Kearney hinted at a clean-out of playing personnel, following Saturday's 26-10 loss to last-placed Newcastle. Not enough people tried, he said. It was certainly one way of shifting the blame for a fifth loss in succession.

In the end one starting player - Issac Luke - was demoted to the bench. Big deal. Coaches are the only people truly vulnerable during prolonged runs of poor performance.

The Warriors might get lucky with Kearney. Halfback Shaun Johnson might have a match-winning month next year and the team might scrape into the playoffs.

Your suspicion, though, is that Kearney - just like men such as Elliott before him - is operating at his level. Kearney won 10 games in 41 starts as Parramatta coach and is now 7-20 at the Warriors.

The club have needed a proper, proven, impressive coach from day one and still need one now.

 - Stuff


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