The New Zealand Warriors have called a press conference for Wednesday where it is expected that they will announce that Ivan Cleary will leave the club at the end of the 2011 season and take up the vacant coaching role at the Penrith Panthers next year.
When people asked me who I wanted to coach the Panthers when Matthew Elliott was finally sacked for good, my mind went towards the big names like Tim Sheens and Ricky Stuart, who were available at the time. I always said though that, anyone would be better than Matthew Elliott.
A few weeks ago Channel 9 send their commentary team over to New Zealand to call a Warriors match, something they rarely do. As I was watching the game I got thinking, Ivan Cleary would be a handy coach to sign. Phil Gould basically spent two hours praising him and so when news come out that the Panthers wanted Cleary, it wasn’t too much of a surprise.
Cleary played for the Sydney Roosters under Phil Gould. He took over the coaching role at the New Zealand Warriors when they were in desperate need for stability and leadership.
Some Warriors fans don’t rate Cleary, and I’m not too sure why.
He has coached a club that has a history of falling apart in a blazing heap, and yet on Cleary’s, the team has always been in the playoff hunt at the very least.
Its well known that the club does not spend the entire salary cap, so in that sense the club is always fighting with one hand tied behind its back. Still, they have shown the ability to bring through youngsters to play along side veteran buys who, haven’t always been headline makers, but who have more often than not been very good value for money.
I always get the feeling that behind the scenes at the Warriors, there are a lot of people with a lot of voices. People who have ideas, who know better. Most have already tried and failed, but it doesn’t stop them trying to have a say. You have to always remember that the NZRL scene can be very political, and yet somehow, Cleary has never engaged in any of that rubbish, has never acknowledged it, he has always done what he wanted to do and he has got enough in terms of results that his job has never been under threat.
Cleary would have taken the Warriors job as a stepping stone. When he took the reigns of the club, he was taking the gamble that he could do a decent enough job with the wreckage that was left of the team to hopefully get a job back in Australia.
As a Rugby League fan and foremost, I really am worried about the Warriors if Cleary leaves. He is the perfect coach for them. Strength and stability and understated in his approach. I don’t know who the Warriors get to fill his shoes. I’m suspecting it will be Brian McLennan, and I know that is going to end in tears, he’s not up to the job.
Looking back towards the Panthers, what more could you want.
A young coach that doesn’t get involved in the bullshit. Who has shown the ability to develop junior players from a vast junior nursery. A real worker who isn’t interested in the spotlight. No nonsense and more importantly, who is willing to work under Phil Gould as the Panthers general manager.
As a Rugby League fan, I am a bit sad for the Warriors. As a Panthers fan, I couldn’t have hoped to get someone better suited to the Panthers coaching role than Ivan Cleary.
Optimism, its an emotion I haven’t felt in regards to my club for many, many years.
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