The Raiders and the Dave Furner coaching conundrum
I added my two bobs worth about Michael Foley and the Waratahs to David Lord’s wrap-up of the most recent Waratahs ‘game’ and it got me thinking about the concept of whether the coach is to blame for a side’s performance.
And that in turn got my thinking about the current state of the Dave Furner / Canberra Raiders conundrum.
Just to be clear – I’m no fan of a coach being sacked mid-season. I think it is more a reflection on the administrators and their own panic more than anything else.
If you make a decision you stick with it until the end of the season and meet the commitment. The whole notion of ‘starting-fresh’ mid-season leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Having said that, one of the main problems with Dave Furner’s tenure is that his contract extension was essentially rushed through ahead of the club review – and John McIntyre’s ‘Grandpa Simpson’ rants to support the decision have done the club no favours.
I’m also a fan of Dave Furner. As always in a town this size there are connections. Dave was the year above me the whole way through school and graduated in ’88 ahead of me and my mates. In a rugby school with plenty of over-protected ruggers he was a genuine and well-liked bloke.
Add to that the legend status he took on as a Raiders player and youth coach and I would find it hard to believe that anyone has a personal gripe with the man.
But back to the matter at hand – how do you judge Dave (or any coach) and what is he responsible for?
In my mind there are four things a coach’s success should be measured on:
- Club culture
- Style and execution of the plan
- The delivery of technical skills
There may be more measures, but I think these represent the broad expectation of what a coach delivers a club.
The fact that these measures are inter-related but quite distinct in their own right shows how complicated making judgements about coaching can be.
What they do highlight though is that the coach’s mark is everywhere across a club – and for that reason, while a coach should not by judged on wins alone – they are totally responsible for what happens on the field.
So how are the Raiders coaching staff doing?
Culture – all Canberrans have been proud of the ‘no d—heads’ policy that Furner has established. The current playing roster seems more settled and down to earth than many in previous years and the players are heavily involved and respected in the community (in my view).
The recent slip up of Ferguson and Duggan though points to this culture potentially slipping after a good couple of years of building. On this score I think the coach has done enough.
Executing the plan – on this measure I’m afraid all is not well in the Capital. An exceptionally well rated forward back over the past couple of seasons has managed to cover up the awful truth that this team simply has no plan on how to consistently score points.
The reliance on the cross-field bomb and individual runs in the attacking 20 rather than any semblance of planned moves has been excruciating to watch. Is there any other fan in the NRL who doubts their team can get over the try line even after multiple sets and mountains of pressure?
Technical skills – this is an interesting measure. Yes, players at this level should be expected to be able to do simple things like catch, pass and tackle. So maybe the measure isn’t the technical performance of the players individually, but the way they are put together in a team.
In these terms the report would be mixed. Outstanding results in terms of completions (until this weekend against the Tigers) must be seen through the lense of a seeming unwillingness to address a leaking left side defence and inability to apply pressure through tactical kicking and retention of the ball. The most telling example of technical inability must surely be the ‘unforced error’.
Dropping the ball off a penalty restart, forcing the offload when in your own 20. These I think rest with the players discipline – I wouldn’t be sacking the coach over that. Though what it points to is the coaching team.
The Brumbies this year have clearly benefitted from having Stephen Larkham back in the fold. The influence of the former player on the half combination(s) is so obvious and has been an inspiration for players and fans alike. Alas – the Raiders coaching team have offered no such inspiration. Quite the opposite – it looks like each player is left to work out the direction and skills required on theirown.
Wins. In some sports and in some clubs the only measure. But we all know where that gets you (winning ugly in front of no fans anyone?). In terms of wins, I’m afraid the writing is on the wall.
Injuries, yes – but this squad has more talent on the bench than brave Raiders teams had running on in the 80’s – when the pride of the motley crew meant they didn’t and wouldn’t give in. Even when they were up against much more fancied clubs.
So where are we at. On any measure this Raiders team is on the verge of not only losing its season but losing credibility with its fans.
Is it the coach’s fault – not entirely, but if you take objective measures like those above it isn’t looking good for our Dave.