Brian Smith’s 25 years of mediocrity

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    In what occupation can somebody still be paid handsomely to turn up for work after 25 years of chronic underperformance? Ask Brian Smith. He’s built a career out of it.

    As a rugby league coach since 1984, Brian Smith has delivered not a single premiership to any club that he has mentored. That’s twenty-five years, at six clubs, in two countries, and zero premierships.

    When somebody has twenty-five attempts at doing a job with all the resources that he needs and can’t achieve the desired goal even once, then something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

    At what point does somebody have a quiet word in his ear that perhaps he should consider an alternative career?

    As a chief string-puller in Australia, he has coached his team du jour to the semi-finals on no fewer than ten occasions, for three grand final appearances and three abject grand final defeats.

    Two matches highlight how impotent Smith has been as a coach. Parramatta’s capitulation in the 2001 Grand Final to Newcastle (24-0 down at half time) and Parramatta’s 29-0 loss to North Queensland in the 2005 preliminary final.

    Both were quintessential Brian Smith. He failed miserably. He had the cattle and the cattle were in peak form. Yet he didn’t have the capacity to motivate his players to lift for the occasion of winning a grand final or qualifying for a grand final.

    Obviously Smith could not run, pass, kick or tackle for the players, but the simple fact is that he could also not find the words or the energy to trigger a performance when it mattered most.

    In recent months Smith has given his current Roosters experiment, sorry club, some much needed discipline and structure as he drags his whiteboard around Bondi.

    He may be the poster boy for all aspiring Mr Fixits out there with a track record of nurturing juniors and even occasionally breaking down opposing teams, but he still has the same number of first grade rugby league premierships to his name as Craig Bellamy. The same number as Kim Kardashian, for that matter.

    To the Rooster supporter out there (please stand up so we can see you), the weekend’s 42-18 loss to the lamentable Cronulla side is a bleak sign of what lies ahead. Take the next three years to go backpacking through Eastern Europe and we’ll text through any premierships.

    Don’t panic too much if you lose your phone.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • June 7th 2010 @ 7:10am
      sheek said | June 7th 2010 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      I’m not a fan of Brian Smith, not at all. But he did take his teams to 3 grand finals – 92, 93 & 01. And perhaps another one I missed.

      School teacher-ish, overbearing , dogmatic & inflexible are words I would associate with Smith, but not mediocrity. How many people in society get to coach a sport at the elite level?

      Sure, I think he has a personality problem with players, but he’s not mediocre. His failure is a refusal to change his ways of communication & connection, not his ability.

    • June 7th 2010 @ 8:21am
      Brett McKay said | June 7th 2010 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      Any coach that can maintain a winning percentage over 50% for well in excess of 500 first grade games is doing something right, regardless of what his premiership count says. Interestingly, in terms of winning percentage, there’s not much between Smith and Tim Sheens, but does four premierships – three of them over 15 years ago – make Sheens an infinitely better coach??

      • June 7th 2010 @ 10:37am
        mushi said | June 7th 2010 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Wayne Bennet was a failure last year, a hopeless coach, an absolute muppet. Seriously his style only got the minor premiership but bam dragons crash out in the finals how the hell does he keep his job?

        • June 7th 2010 @ 11:36am
          Fallen said | June 7th 2010 @ 11:36am | ! Report

          mushi that might be a St George problem rather than a Bennett issue. Since 1985 the Dragons have been in final series 6 times and made the Grand final 5 times . They have won none.

          The Broncos never loss a Grand Final with Bennett in charge, so I don’t think that sounds like an absolute muppet.

          • June 7th 2010 @ 12:42pm
            mushi said | June 7th 2010 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

            Sorry was being sarcastic, Bennet did a cracking job with the Dragons last year.

            If the only measure of success was the grand final then we’d have 15 abject failures every year (and 16 last year given the storm were stripped of the premiership)

            Who do we have that has ever been successful:

            – Wayne Bennet
            – Des Hasler
            – Tim Sheens has had the dreaded “full support of the board” thrown behind him
            – John Lang so successful he’s viewed as an interim option
            – Ricky Stuart was so successful that he’s already been pushed from the door

            So we only have 5 coaches (discounting bellyache at the moment for the storm until we’re told they will be reinstated) in the league that have EVER in their entire coaching career been succsseful, one of which has already resigned, one needing a good year to stay employed and another is viewed as a stop gap.

            • June 7th 2010 @ 1:01pm
              Fallen said | June 7th 2010 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

              Sorry mushi – we really need a sarcastic font or something 🙂
              Sticky – won’t shed a tear when he’s gone.

              I don’t think we can rely just on Grand Finals – I think how the team performs should depend on the cattle they have. I think Matt Elliot has done a great job with the Panthers but it took some time. They don’t have a team of stars but the last two years they’ve played some great footy. I think Cartwright should pick up a cup in the next 2-3 years. Henjak will struggle if he doesn’t pick up a GF before Lockyer retires.

    • June 7th 2010 @ 8:28am
      sledgeross said | June 7th 2010 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Im not a Smith plan. I believe that his teams are too structured to ever win a comp. Having said that, you cant deny his record.
      I liken him to “Evil Russell” from the recent Survivor tv series. He has the game to get to the final, but he will never win it.
      Brett, good point about Sheens. Good at Canberra, abysmal at the Cowgirls, won a comp at the Magpies, but hasnt made the finals since.

      • June 7th 2010 @ 8:32am
        Brett McKay said | June 7th 2010 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        Sledgie, Smith has burnt a lot of bridges and alliances too, so the Evil Russell link is a beauty!!

    • June 7th 2010 @ 9:26am
      Fallen said | June 7th 2010 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      A mate and I ridicule Brian Smith’s approach, often stating that he will never win an NRL premiership. I can’t deny he has the ability to turn teams around, however his methods cause friction with the fans and team management along the way. The lack of premierships I think stems from his attitude and leadership. After a win, it’s all praise and acclaim for the team. After a defeat, blame is sprayed in every direction – most often at referees and officialdom. As an example look up his attack on the two referee system after the Rooster’s loss to the Knights – talk about a rant out of nowhere.

      This deflection of blame seems to give his players a sense of “It wasn’t our fault – everyone is against us”. Note this is not the same as a “siege mentality” carefully manufactured by other more successful coaches.

      Brian will continue to win more than half the games he coaches and drag his teams into the final series every other year but will he take out the big prize? Not whilst the world is “plotting” against him and his players believe it.

      Don’t go looking for a conspiracy when incompetence is the most likely explanation.

    • June 7th 2010 @ 12:27pm
      PG said | June 7th 2010 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

      Would rather have Smithy back then Stone the pebble — sob poor kerniggerts!

    • June 7th 2010 @ 1:25pm
      Norm said | June 7th 2010 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

      As that lone Roosters supporter Junior I wasn’t too fused with the appointment of Smith but if he can drag us into the finals after last year (a big if after Sat night’s effort) then he’ll start to look like Jack Gibson in my eyes.

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