A football club is a little bit like a sailing ship.
The boat itself is the team. The captain of the ship is like the coach. The rudder is like the CEO and the keel, well, that is like the football board. Everything has its own job, and as soon as something fails, the whole thing falls apart.
Right now at Parramatta, the Eels as a club are in turmoil. After the current board was voted in with big headlines and a lot of promises, things looked rosy. The Eels became high fliers at the end of last season and it looked like the new management were a bunch of geniuses.
Things started to slowly unravel though as the people voted onto the football clubs board started to try and do things outside of a football club boards job description.
All of a sudden, the keel of the ship was trying to be the rudder. The rudder meanwhile was also doing the job of the rudder. The captain lost control and the ship went off course.
See what I did there?
Last night Daniel Anderson was sacked in a disgraceful manner. After what was without doubt a disappointing season, Anderson looked to have been punted for political reasons rather than performance issues.
This is not the first time Anderson has had to contend with bullshit during his coaching career.
As a highly rated lower grade coach with the Parramatta Eels, Anderson decided to take up the most impossible first grade coaching job going in late 2000.
At the time, the then Auckland Warriors had just gone belly up. The license for the club was transferred to new ownership and within the space of weeks, the new ownership had to build an entirely new football team.
The man the new owners chose to help with this process was Daniel Anderson. He took what was left of the of Auckland and started to work from the ground up to build the New Zealand Warriors.
Before Andersons arrival, the Auckland based NRL club was a laughing stock. It was a disaster on and off the field. Anderson helped bring some order to the mess, he put processes in place that every successful clubs needs. He brought the back room at the Warriors up to standard and soon enough, things started to turn around on the field as well.
The New Zealand Warriors started started winning games, they got on a roll. In 2001 the Warriors had made their first every finals series. In 2002 the club were Minor Premiers and managed to reach their first Grand Final. In 2003, they made the NRL finals once again. The sleeping giant had awoken, and at the helm was Daniel Anderson, who soon found himself also coaching the New Zealand test team.
Then things started to unravel. The clubs on field performance fell right away and in 2004 the club won just six games. This was when rumours started to filter out that Anderson had a problem relating to Polynesian players. A bit of a problem at a New Zealand based club.
Anderson left at the end of the year, a long with a number of the under-performing players.
Anderson soon found a job with St Helens over in Super League. During his time at St Helens he did alright. Three Challenge Cup Final wins, a World Club Challenge victory, a Super League Grand Final appearance and three Super League Coach Of The Year awards.
It was clear he was an NRL coach just waiting to return back to Australia. When the Parramatta Eels were looking for a coach for the 2009 season, Anderson headed back to his old club, looking to make an impact in the big league again.
In his first year coaching the Eels, things got off to a rough start, and the decision to push Brett Finch from the club early in the season was controversial. Things were not looking good, but then like a light switching on the Eels all of a sudden looked unstoppable.
The club rode this success all the way to the 2009 Grand Final, Andersons second appearance in the big game. They didn’t win it, but things looked good for 2010.
Another slow start to the year was a blow to the Eels, and while most expected the Eels to turn things around, things just didn’t seem right. There was unrest at the club, they were not clicking on the field, and the decision to release inconsistent players in Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu caused more issues than they really should have.
When Anderson criticized Jarryd Haynes form in one game mid season, Hayne spat the dummy and threatened to walk from the club. He met with the CEO, Paul Osbourne, and his manager and uncle Terry Hill started talking about Hayne leaving the club.
Anderson stood his ground, but he had been undermined by the club. This would have been a hard place to come back from, but as Hayne’s form picked up, it was widely regarded that Andersons comments about Hayne were what Hayne needed to hear.
Then came more undermining. CEO Paul Osbourne headed down to Melbourne to have a “Little chat” with Storm assistant coach and New Zealand test coach Stephen Kearney. Kearney said to the Eels, he would not be involved in backstabbing a fellow coach, and told the Eels to go away and sort their house out, then he would talk.
The Eels missed the final, and the simmering tension regarding the release of Feleti Mateo kept bubbling along. Rumours that Anderson has an issue with Polynesian players rose to the surface again.
Then, last week it was revealed that the Eels board has said to Anderson that they wanted him out. He refused to walk, and the board convened on Sunday night and officially sacked him.
I’m a big believer in the idea that when there is smoke, there is fire. Willie Mason is a player I liked, but the guy had a reputation as a cancer at clubs, and three wooden spoons at three different clubs can not be ignored.
In the same vein, you can not ignore that Anderson has been pushed out of two different NRL clubs with these rumours of having difficulties with Polynesian players.
Do I think its true? Well, lets think about it like this….
Jarryd Hayne, Timana Tahu, Feleti Mateo, Krisnan Inju, Fuifui Moimoi, Francis Meli, Stacey Jones, Clinton Toopi, Ali Lauitiiti, Jerry Seu Seu….the list of Polynesian players who have had by far and away the best seasons of their careers under Andersons is incredible. You simply can’t ignore it.
In fact many of the New Zealand Warriors players that cursed Anderson and helped push him out never came close to reaching the same height they did under his coaching.
As a coach, Anderson is obviously extremely talented. The number of coaches that have taken two different clubs to NRL Grand Finals is very, very small. As far as man management goes, I think the way he relates to players isn’t an issue when they are winning, but there must be something about it that, coupled with a disappointing season, its just too much for some players.
I think the failure of the Parramatta Eels in 2010 had to do with the type of players the club has. Many are erratic, and lets face it, they gave Jarryd Hayne half a million dollars a year and didn’t get much of a return on their investment.
Allowing Krisnan Inu to leave at season end was a no brainer. Sure he;s a great athlete, but the dudes half asleep during most games and lets not forget, he was on big money at the Eels.
Feleti Mateo? He has played less than ten really good games for the Eels during his entire career. He is erratic, his fitness isn’t great. He could be anything in this game, but the fact is he is at best a bench warmer on a team that didn’t make the finals.
I personally believe that the Parramatta Eels board have wanted rid of Anderson for a long time, and they have latched onto this rubbish about having issues with Polynesian players because its an easy out.
This current board didn’t appoint Anderson, he was appointed by the previous board, and I don’t think that sits well with the current mob. They want to be in control, they want to have their say, they want their own coach, not this guy they have been stuck with!
The job of a football clubs board is to help maintain stability, and that is something the Eels have lacked since the current board was elected. Sure the previous board wasn’t fantastic itself, but one thing is for sure, they didn’t run around like blue arsed flies causing problems for the club!
Daniel Anderson is a good coach, his record speaks for itself. I have no doubt he will be in high demand, both in England and within Australia. I would suggest he’ll probably end up back over in Super League. He can head over there, be on good money and turn a club around.
Its less pressure and easier work. The break from the Australian Rugby League spotlight will probably do him good too.
There are not too many coaching jobs in Australia that are likely to come up any time soon either. The North Queensland Cowboys might be looking for a coach soon, but that’s another screwed situation. Why would he want to walk into that?
The Newcastle Knights were terrible in 2010, however one again, you have a club with a basket case of a football club board, it would be a terrible decision for any non Newcastle old boy to take over.
I could see the Bulldogs maybe looking for a new coach is they have another bad season in 2011, however they seem to promote coaches from within “the family”.
There are not many options out there, but Anderson is a good coach and I think eventually he’ll find himself a club that is not a mess to continue his career at. For complete speculation, and in the long term if things work out for him, I could see him ending up at the Brisbane Broncos.
For now though, Anderson is out, Kearney is in, and the Parramatta Eels football club board are very important and very powerful.
Just ask them…
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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