Brian McClennan has been sacked by the New Zealand Warriors effective immediately with assistant coach Tony Iro taking over the head coaching role for the teams remaining two games of the 2012 season.
That McClennan couldn’t even see out his first season as the clubs head coach says a lot.
McClennan stepped into the spotlight when he took over as New Zealand’s test coach in 2005. He was in charge when New Zealand beat Australia in the Tri Nations Final that year, a great achievement, but at a success that that hardly based on his coaching expertise. McClennan coached the Kiwi’s for two season before wisely making the decision to cash his chips and take up the head coaching role with the Leeds Rhinos in Super League.
In Super League, McClennan found more success, winning Super League titles with the Rhinos. Once again though, winning didn’t have a great deal to do with coaching ability and more to do with the talent he had at his disposal and the fact Super League has more to do with who is spending the most money rather than crafting a side and coaching them to success.
I personally felt that McClennan should have stayed with the Rhino’s but when Ivan Cleary decided to leave the New Zealand Warriors at the end of 2011 the writing was on the wall. You knew McClennan would end up coaching the Warriors.
The Warriors job is a great one to have for a new coach. They have more talent than most clubs, more depth, and there is always the added bonus that the clubs has the ability to unearth incredible game breakers from time to time. Not all clubs can say that. McClennan was also well respected in New Zealand. A long time coach on the local scene, they still look up to his achievements at test level.
In the white hot environment of the NRL though, it didn’t take long before the questions started to be asked. The Warriors started the season off looking alright, but not as good as many would hope. That happens with the Warriors from time to time. However as the season rolled on, the Warriors progressively got worse. It was as though the Clearly influence was slowly leaving the Warriors….and it wasn’t being replaced by anything.
When you are judging coaches, a good thing to look at is their youngsters. The Warriors have blooded some outstanding youngsters this season, but for all their natural ability, they have holes in their game, especially defensively. When those defensive issues don’t get addressed, when the same players make the same poor reads and missed tackles week after week and there is no sign of improvement or even of that player trying to do something different, you know you have a problem.
For Brian McClennan, coaching in the NRL was just beyond him. He was a poor choice of coach to begin with and the only thing surprising about how all of this has ended it is that it happened before the season ended.
So who is available to take over from McClennan.
There is a chance that Tony Iro will continue as coach next season, but not a very good one. Look at recent history and how many assistant coaches step into a caretaker role and manage to hold onto that job! Clubs sack coaches because they know the need big changes. It is hard to change when the assistant coach steps up and just keeps doing the same thing.
Stephen Kearney has not even tried to hide the fact he wants the Warriors job. He was talking about being part of the Warriors staff soon after being sacked by the Eels. I can’t imagine the Warriors are that stupid though. Sure Kearney didn’t have much to work with at Parramatta, but his record was appalling and once again, you watched the Eels under Kearney and you didn’t even seen an effort by players to improve.
He might be a really good coach that was in a really bad position….but is it up to the Warriors to roll the dice on another coach with a question mark over his ability hanging over him?
Some have tossed up Mick Potter of the Bradford Bulls as a candidate, but from what I’ve seen of him he isn’t a very good coach at all. He was OK at the Catalan Dragons but moved to St Helens on a big contract and didn’t do much. He then moved to the Bradford Bulls and once again, did nothing. Right now he is coaching the Bulls for free as they go through the long, drawn out process of dying thanks to the RFL. He isn’t the man for the job.
I think the best man for the Warriors job is current Melbourne Storm Under 20’s coach Dean Pay.
Pay has been in the Storms coaching system for some time now. He has had some good success with the Storms Under 20’s team and was one of the first people Ricky Stuart signed up to be part of his coaching staff at the Parramatta Eels for next season.
While he is under contract with the Eels for 2013, he would be able to break that contract if offered the Warriors coaching role.
He has shown a willingness to make big moves to further his coaching career. In the Warriors he would have a wealth of talent to work with and a young side, something he has a lot of experience in dealing with as an Under 20’s coach.
Pay would bring no baggage to the Warriors at all and should he turn out to be a very good head coach in the NRL, he could be there for a long time.
The Warriors really need to think about stability and longevity with their next coach. This young side has the ability to be a top four team if they get their act together. The worst thing that could happen is for them to be hearing too many voices and be heading in too many different directions at this stage of their development.
In the last 12 months, the Warriors will now have had three different head coaches, all with their own idea, all trying to implement their own changes. That means the decision on who they sign as their next coach can’t afford to be the wrong one.
Coaching the New Zealand Warriors is a dream job. The expectations are not all that high, you are out of the burning spotlight that you find in Sydney or Brisbane, you can draw on a talent pool of an entire nation, the World Champions at that, and you know that if you get it right, this team can take you to a Grand Final at the very least.
In a normal coaching environment, coaches would be lining up to coach the Warriors. It just so happens that most of the top coaches are all signed up to long term deals right now and that will force the Warriors to make a big decision on a coach that is likely to have no NRL head coaching experience under his belt.
Lets hope this time they make the right decision.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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