What about those Warriors? Is it time to truly believe? Steve Deane’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback has the answers.
If coaches have a union – and given the precarious nature of their employment you’d hope they do – then its members will be toasting Stephen Kearney right now.
By engineering what increasingly appears to be a genuine revival at the Warriors, Kearney has likely not just bought himself precious time – but also handed a good few colleagues a chunk of life’s most precious commodity.
If the Warriors do push on from a scarcely believable 4-0 start into the NRL finals, and beyond to places the club’s fans seldom dare to dream, Kearney will be the poster child for the ‘give the dude some time’ club.
Revivals don’t happen overnight.
Any coach heading to a club that has truly sucked for any length of time will tell you that. The one thing every new coach pleads for is time; time to figure out what has been going wrong; time to put in place systems to fix it; time to bring in the personnel he or she can work with, on and off the field, to make the new systems work.
It’s only when a coach has had the time to build their own house – typically two to three years – that they can fairly be judged.
Most of the time, it’s wasted time. Achieving professional sporting success is damnably hard. Most coaches fail. A very few get to the point where they make their own time. You wouldn’t sack Craig Bellamy or Wayne Bennett after a couple of down seasons, would you?
For the rest, it’s typically a case of ‘hello, goodbye, thanks for trying’.
For coaches currently living on borrowed time, Kearney’s Warriors revival is manna from heaven. ‘All I need is more time’, they can plead when they hear the footsteps of the CEO shuffling up behind them with a silenced pistol (statement of mutually agreed separation) in their hands.
Time, though, isn’t always the panacea the soon-to-be sacked might argue it to be.
Andrew McFadden, the popular assistant coach elevated into the head coaching role at the Warriors after six rounds of the 2014 season, was afforded more sand in the hour glass than most.
McFadden’s reign lasted for two and three-quarter unsuccessful seasons (62 games for 28 victories) before the clock ran out.
For the Warriors, that’s an above average investment. McFadden’s predecessor, Matt Elliott, lasted just over one full season. The man Elliott replaced (leaving aside Tony Iro’s two-game caretaker appointment), Brian McLennan, didn’t even last a season.
The only coach to have led the club for more than 100 games is Ivan Cleary with 137.
Cleary’s last game in charge, somewhat notably, was a Grand Final. For the rest, it’s usually a horror home defeat by Penrith.
Typically, Warriors coaches have received about 30-50 games to prove their chops. So the upturn in fortunes under Kearney is… timely.
But is it real?
The Easter Massacre of the title-favourite Roosters suggests it is.
The club has produced plenty of miracle victories of the like witnessed in Canberra in Round 3 only to fall flat on its prematurely jubilant face a week later.
Comprehensive wins like the one over the Roosters – achieved in Australia without Shaun Johnson in the line-up – are another matter. The Warriors seldom win comfortably, virtually never win in Australia and don’t win at all without Johnson.
And yet they did all of that – against a Roosters side that had thrashed the Knights and Bulldogs, against a Roosters side that had not conceded more than 12 points in a match this season.
That sure feels real. The miracle win against a Raiders team that had won the last six matches between the clubs feels real. A first win in Perth in ten attempts feels real. Three consecutive wins from trips to Australia feels very real indeed.
The latest gibber coming out of Australia is that the Warriors have benefitted from a soft draw. Arrant nonsense. Draws don’t come much tougher than road trips to Perth and Canberra and an away match against the Roosters in three of the first four matches of the season.
The Warriors now face the Cowboys, Broncos and unbeaten Dragons at home before travelling away to Melbourne to face the Storm. It’s without doubt the toughest opening seven weeks the club has faced in recent memory. It wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that they would start 0-7 – and that Kearney would already be among the dead men walking.
Is it too early to suggest that the Warriors have awakened from their six-year slumber? That they are about to become the club the nation desperately wants them to be?
Only time will tell. At the very least, Stephen Kearney has bought himself more of it to work with.
A lot more.