Junior Warriors chief committed, for now
Panthers meeting … caretaker Warriors coach Tony Iro. Photo: Getty Images
JUNIOR Warriors coach John Ackland has denied being courted by Ivan Cleary for a role at Penrith, despite the pair meeting in Auckland last weekend.
Ackland, whose is attempting to claim his third successive Toyota Cup title with the Warriors under-20s this season, and caretaker boss Tony Iro met former club coach Cleary last Sunday, following the Panthers' 18-16 victory over the club's first-grade team
Cleary and Ackland became close friends during the former fullback's time at the Warriors, with the Panthers boss a known admirer of his coaching style.
Yet Ackland, who is off contract with the Warriors at the end of next year, ruled out a move in the near future, though hinted anything was possible at the end of next season.
''I've got a job here,'' Ackland said. ''One job at a time, I'm under contract next year. There's still plenty of football left this year. One game, and one job at a time.''
Ackland has arguably been the best coach in the Toyota Cup since the competition began in 2008, and put his name forward for the Warriors head coaching job last year.
Chief executive Wayne Scurrah said that while Ackland's future with the club beyond next year had not yet been discussed, he was confident the under-20s coach would remain at the club.
''Where we are is sorting out what is happening with our current head coaching position,'' Scurrah said.
''Obviously any head coach will want to bring his flavour to the team. [But] John has done a terrific job and I'm pretty optimistic he will continue to be part of the club's future.''
While Iro was Brian McClennan's assistant coach, Ackland was a regular in the first-grade coaching box throughout the season before McClennan was sacked this week.
And despite being long-time friends since their days together at Mount Albert, Ackland didn't wish to comment on his thoughts on McClennan's dismissal.
''I don't think anyone embarks on a career in football coaching thinking they're going to be safe,'' he said.
''I don't think there's a superannuation fund for football coaches.''
The Junior Warriors sat third on the Toyota Cup table heading into this weekend, trailing on Raiders and Bulldogs under-20 sides.
Ackland will receive rookie standoff Carlos Tuimavave back from the first-grade team for the under-20s finals campaign.
Tuimavave, who was named in the Toyota Cup Team of the Year last week, Sam Lousi, Omar Slaimankhel and Sebastine Ikahihifo are among under-20s players who have been promoted into the first-grade team this year through injuries to key Warriors, but Ackland said the youngsters have made good accounts of themselves in trying situations.
''I think if you look at their performances, basically I think they've performed quite well in what has been an extremely difficult situation, and environment, sometimes,'' he said.
''Carlos [Tuimavave] has done well since he came in, and Sebby [Sebastine Ikahihifo] has gone good in the games he's had. ''I don't think it's fair for them to shoulder too much of the blame for the performance.''