The North Queensland Cowboys sit in 15th place on the NRL ladder after winning just 4 of their 13 games this season. The word is that Neil Henry is about to be given his marching orders, and when you look at the the teams results, that is completely understandable.
I would ask one simple question of the North Queensland Cowboys management though…
Who are they going to replace him with?
The list of coaches-in-waiting in the NRL is very, very thin. While Australian coach Tim Sheens and everyones favorite brides maid Brian Smith would be happy to step into a coach coaching position, outside of those two you are looking at untested coaches who are a completely unknown quantity.
The name that keeps being linked to the Cowboys jobs is Trent Barrett. Barrett has been pushing for a coaching role for a long time now, and that’s fine. The problem is that Trent Barrett has never been the head coach of a club before at any level!
Trent Barrett has coached the New South Wales Country team, but that is a completely different animal to coaching a club week in, week out. He has been an assistant coach at State Of Origin level, but so has Steve Roach! Barrett is currently an assistant coach at the Penrith Panthers, and no doubt he is learning a lot working under Ivan Cleary at a club that is dealing with a few issues at the moment. However to suggest that Barrett is ready to go from that into a full time NRL head coaching role in my opinion is completely ridiculous!
Kevin Walter is another name that gets mentioned as a possible NRL head coach. Walter is currently an assistant coach a the Melbourne Storm. It doesn’t automatically mean he will be a great head coach though, just ask Stephen Kearney. On top of that, anyone that saw Walters dismal efforts at the Catalan Dragons, who got worse when he arrived, and got better when he left, would also have questions about Walters coaching ability.
One of the more comical candidates I keep hearing has been linked to the New Zealand Warriors is current Wigan coach Shaun Wane.Wane took over the Wigan coaching job fro Michael Magure. While Wigans results under Wane haven’t been too bad, he is coaching a side that Michael Magure built. He is also an English coach, and history shows that English coaches are terrible. Results in Super League very rarely translate into results in the NRL, and I for one don’t rate Wane what so ever.
While a lot of areas of the game have moved forward over the last decade, the way Rugby League develops coaches in my opinion has become a real issue. Too many teams are loking for quick fixes and the pathway for coaches to come into the NRL is not well defined at all.
Surely NRL clubs want head coaches that have experience in managing an entire squad over an entire season, even if it is in the lower levels of the game. The ability to manage and develop players. The ability to work with people that turn up to work angry, upset, not wanting to play and knowing how to get their minds back on the job. All of those things are just as important as having the ability to inspire a team, to break down an opposition, to come up with the right tactics for your own club and impliment the right type of training for your club.
Neil Henry’s results in North Queensland haven’t been great, but they haven’t been terrible either. There is no doubt that when the Cowboys are in form, they are a tough team to beat.
I tend to think Henry suffers from having a team built around a player in Johnathan Thurston who lets face it, sometimes doesn’t play all that well at club level. Keep in mind how much that Thurston costs the Cowboys under the salary cap and how that restricts the Cowboys ability to recruit players….that is a major issue to deal with.
The one mistake I see the Cowboys have made recently is allowing their two best hookers to leave the club and not replacing them. That is killing the Cowboys right now. This is a team with a very handy pack of forwards and they need a good dummy half running off the back of them.
Outside of that though, their recruitment looks to be pretty good. Its just not clicking right now, and I can’t put that all down to Neil Henry.
If there were better coaches out there I’d say that maybe it is time to look at a change. I can’t see anyone better than Neil Henry to take over this team though.
If the Cowboys want a new coach, they should wait until the right coach comes along. Don’t go from a bad situation into a worse one.
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