I write this piece on Sunday afternoon – the best part of 24 hours on from the Warriors humiliating loss to the Canberra Raiders. I have spent the daytime hours since trying to figure out how they try to fix this mess up and trying to figure out who the players are that coach Andrew McFadden believes are not putting in enough effort.
Let’s start with that perceived lack of effort. As a whole I found myself questioning the team’s commitment when watching the game play out. Where was the heart, pride etc? It certainly wasn’t very evident at Yarrows Stadium. But as I look through at individual performances I struggle to name too many players that don’t appear to be committed. I could rattle off a number that turned in poor performances – Blake Ayshford, Shaun Johnson, Simon Mannering, Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino come to mind. But while they played poorly they appeared to me to be trying hard. Every player is entitled to a bad day at the office so long as the effort is there. It is when the effort levels aren’t there that you have a problem. I’d like to name some players that weren’t trying their best but I can’t actually come up with any names here.
I feel genuinely sorry for McFadden. He fronted up, as he always does, in an honest but downcast mood post-match. He had his head down after the game as the players were getting changed and getting on the bus and looked a broken man. He deserves better. Former skipper Mannering, who displays the work ethic and commitment any fan would desire, went out of his way to back the coach’s plans and structures. The problem is purely execution according to Mannering – one of the most respected players in the game. That’s good enough for me. McFadden can’t be the problem – these issues have plagued the Warriors ever since they played in the 2011 grand final long before McFadden arrived at the club. The problem is, at least until this point, McFadden hasn’t been able to fix the problems.
It appears he will wield the selection axe and dump under-performing players to NSW Cup. Last week I wrote that dumping struggling chief playmaker Johnson would be a dumb move. Even after a very ordinary performance against the Raiders I stand by that thought. There is no-one at the club that will perform better. Johnson is, in my opinion, a liability to an under-performing Warriors team or any side for that matter that isn’t playing well as a group. If the team struggles across the park he will not make things better and can actually make it worse with the way he plays and where his own individual strengths and weaknesses lie. But give him a side that can hold their own and enjoy parity at worst and he has the potential to be a Dally M winner. So what do you do? Dump him with no real upside or back him for the long haul?
Could it be there are simply no quick fix answers to the Warriors current problems? The Warriors won’t achieve an awful lot dumping McFadden now. If he was going to be axed it needed to be while there was a chance for an incoming coach to turn things around. It is also clear as day that he isn’t the problem. The best course of action might be to overhaul the roster and see if he can be a good coach with better blocks to work with. The other bad news for the Warriors is that they actually can’t do much with their roster at the end of the year as very few players and very little salary cap space comes off the books. Their best bet would be for a couple of established players, on bigger salaries, in not-so-vital positions, were able to find contracts elsewhere and get a release. That is easier said than done of course, especially as the demand for them continues to drop as the poor performances stack up.
Warriors managing director Jim Doyle is a highly rated administrator but he will have his work cut out fixing this mess in a hurry. I don’t envy him.
The Warriors missed a trick with their travel plans around the game in New Plymouth. The Raiders came to New Zealand on Tuesday and spent five nights in the region, including a night out after the game where they mingled with footy fans in the city. The Warriors on the other hand didn’t arrive until Friday and then took a chartered flight out shortly after the game finished, barely completing their minimum NRL media commitments in the process. It would be understandable had it been a Raiders home game but it was the Auckland-based outfit that opted to take the game to New Plymouth. The Taranaki region did its part but the Warriors basically did the bare minimum, which begs the question about why they bothered with the concept in the first place.
On the outer
While the Warriors won’t comment publicly rest assured they have lost faith in centre Konrad Hurrell. They are hoping to offload him before the June 30 deadline but they aren’t prepared to eat much of his salary – believed to be $500K a season – guaranteed until the end of 2018. They need a rival club or sport to pay him as close to that figure as possible so that they can get that amount off their committed salary cap. They don’t want to belittle him as it will only drive his value further down but they also want to encourage him to leave of his own accord, which could see them keep him in NSW Cup until they can reach an agreement to go their own way.