Warriors right to reject Tony Iro
It has often been said great players don’t always make great coaches. That perspective can be broadened to include the idea that players are rarely the best people to consult when hiring coaches.
This week the New Zealand Warriors players, according to various press reports, were in an uproar over the perceived snubbing of their assistant coach, Tony Iro, in favour of Matthew Elliott for the senior coaching job.
Before I address Tony Iro, let me say that I have little to no opinion on Matthew Elliott as a coach. He’s had below average results with below average teams in the NRL.
His English career was more successful, but not having had the chance to watch his Bradford teams on a weekly basis, it’s difficult to determine his impact. With a Super League title and two Coach of the Year awards, it was at the very least positive.
All of which makes his appointment to the Warriors job slightly mystifying, especially since the man, with due respect, isn’t what one would call a dynamic presence.
But that discussion will be had in 2013. At issue here is the players’ dissatisfaction over the Warriors’ failure to even consider Tony Iro.
The club’s management has watched a squad of extremely talented, athletic players put together a miserable season. Under the tutelage of former New Zealand coach Brian McClennan, they have played like the New Zealand national team – occasional bursts of brilliant play, mixed with erratic, disinterested performances.
That has been the norm for the Warriors since their inception in 1995. It is not surprising to me that the team’s two highlight years, with grand final appearances in 2002 and 2012, occurred with Daniel Anderson and Ivan Cleary at the helm.
It is interesting to note that neither Anderson nor Cleary began their coaching careers in the New Zealand system. Anderson started with Brian Smith at Parramatta in 1999, while Cleary worked in the Roosters’ organisation from 2003-2004.
Neither man had anything to do with the Kiwi team, as either a player or a coach, before taking the reigns in Auckland.
This is significant, and it’s one reason why I believe the Warriors were right to ignore Iro.
If there is one characteristic of Kiwi and Warriors players which has really stood out over the years, it must be their sporadic commitment and its inevitable by-product, inconsistency.
If the players are right, and Iro had a strong influence on them, then he must also bear a decent share of responsibility for their lack of discipline, energy and physical commitment in defence throughout last season.
We must also remember Tony Iro the player. At his best, he was an excellent representative player, with size and athleticism. Unfortunately, like many of the Warriors and Kiwis today, he wasn’t able to maintain a high level of play on a consistent basis.
So he may not be the ideal person to bring resolve and consistency to a team which is lacking both.
Being loved and respected by 25 players who rarely performed to their potential should not be a serious endorsement for any head coaching position.
Maybe Tony Iro will make a tremendous head coach and I hope, for his sake, he gets to prove that one day.
But not now. Not at this club. The Warriors need someone who can instil discipline and a desire to perform on a weekly basis.
In fairness to those unhappy New Zealand players, it remains to be seen whether or not Matthew Elliott has the answers.