Michael Wagener – A Review Of The New Zealand Warriors And Matthew Elliott

I’ve tried to reserve my judgement about Matt Elliott. I’ve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. He certainly talks a good game, and he says the right things, so I thought there was a chance that his poor record is due to a statistical anomaly, rather than him being a poor coach. However I’m yet to see anything that convinces me of that.

Instead what I’ve seen is a team that has gone backwards significantly under Elliott. Bluey McLennan had an injury crisis when he was coaching the team, (at one point he had 14 out of the initial 17 out injured) and still managed to win 8 matches out of the 21 (38%) that he was coach for. Elliott has not had the injury problems, and yet has only won 11 out of 25 (44%).

Under McLennan the issue was fitness. The players were not fit enough. They led at half time in a large number of the games and then ran out of steam. However the team was tactically and technically sound. Under Elliott the team is fit, but they are neither tactically nor technically sound.

Here are some examples from Sunday’s match:

1. In the first half the right side defence was about as water tight as a sieve. Were there any changes made? Did the coach make any tactical changes? No. It continued to leak in the second half too.

2. There was hardly anybody running onto the ball. The backs were standing flat, as if they actually didn’t know what plays they should run. A large number of the Warriors players grew up playing Union and Touch, so they are used to ad lib plays, and are generally quite good at them, but relying on improvisation is only something that teams should do in extraordinary circumstances, not as the standard play.

3. I don’t remember a single bomb put up for Manu Vatuvai. Not one. All match. I read through the text commentary, and they don’t mention one either. Now I feel that often the Warriors over play this option, but it’s much better to over-play it than not play it at all. Vatuvai is an absolute monster in the air on attack. There is almost always at least one try created by a bomb to Vatuvai’s wing. Either scored by the big man himself or by someone following it up and taking a bat back. However it’s difficult to put up a bomb when the whole line is so flat that nobody is behind the kicker.

4. There was no depth in the back line. (Sure this is point 2, but it’s still very frustrating)

5. The players were not doing the basics correctly. I can understanding someone missing a tackle, as often that’s as much due to the runner as it is to do with the tackler. But holding the ball incorrectly (thumb against index finger, rather than opposing it) means that it’s not bad luck when a player drops the ball, it’s bad coaching. Lousi’s hands are big enough that he could have been a concert pianist. And yet he knocked the ball on twice. Both times he was holding the ball incorrectly. That only happens if the players are not being drilled enough in the basics.

Matthew Elliott can talk about different modes and phases of the season all he likes, but he’s going to have to do a lot of work on the offensive structure, the defensive structure and the basic skills if he’s going to avoid his team getting belted on a regular basis. Right now I hope that the management are on the lookout for the next coach, as this one doesn’t seem to be up to it.

Follow Michael on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/Mykuhl
Visit Michael’s Cricket blog at: http://www.cricket.geek.nz

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