WIZ: Have the Warriors hired the right man?
Newly announced New Zealand Warriors coach Matthew Elliott. Have the Warriors got the right man? Wiz isn't sure. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)
I am feeling bad – very bad – for Tony Iro after today’s appointment of Matt Elliott as coach of the New Zealand Warriors.
Iro was the perfect man for the job, in my opinion, and I cannot say with any confidence that the choice of Elliott will benefit the Warriors in the long haul.
Consider the following facts:
Iro came through the New Zealand ranks to become an international league star (25 Tests) and as a home grown product, he must know the workings and psyche of Kiwi league teams better than most.
He has been in the Warriors system as a coach since 2008 and was named the Warriors inaugural Toyota Cup coach in 2008.
He has also become assistant coach of the Kiwi Test team and was regarded highly enough to replace Brian McClennan over the last few rounds of this season.
Iro loves the club, he wanted the top job badly and he had already announced plans for much-needed changes to the way the Warriors prepare for and play their football.
Fitness was very high on his list of priorities and we all know how poorly the team fared in this department in 2012.
I will add here that Tony Iro is a friend of mine but that is not the reason why I am upset that he missed the coaching job.
I honestly believe he had the credentials to demand the position when it was learned that Craig Bellamy was not interested in leaving Melbourne Storm at this time.
The Warriors management handled the whole coaching scenario poorly. I believe they should have conducted their business in-house instead of letting it play out in the media.
I understand Iro was one of the first interviewed, so what sort of faith were they showing him by releasing the names of the procession of applicants who filed into the Boardroom?
Matt Elliott is a good bloke and a coach with a fair record and I sincerely wish him luck as he embarks on his two year term as coach.
There are some things that he will need to get into place from the outset.
Fitness must be paramount in his thoughts. The team cannot fade as alarmingly as it did late in games this season.
The Warriors badly need to find a five-eighth now that James Maloney has gone to the Roosters and as for halfback Shaun Johnson, well, he needs to give the team structure from game one and keep doing it if the team is going to be successful.
Every side that made the NRL finals this year did so on the back of a set structure. If Elliott and the Warriors don’t set up and stick to a rigid pattern, they will be wasting their time and again finish down in the competition cellar.
I feel the captaincy of the team for next year and beyond is going to be crucial.
If I were Elliott, I’d be appointing big front-rower Ben Matulino as skipper. This guy is quickly developing into the world’s best prop and he is leadership material for sure.
I hope the Warriors and their new coach can pick up an experienced player or two who may help blood the young members of the side into the rigours of NRL competition but really, who is left on the market? No-one readily springs to mind.
Matt Elliott has accepted an extremely high pressure position and he will feel it from day one.
If the Warriors don’t make the finals next season, I would not want to be in his shoes.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.