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Who would be a coach in this dog eat dog era of NRL?

Progress halted: Aaron Woods of the Tigers is stopped in his tracks by the Dragons' defence.

Progress halted: Aaron Woods of the Tigers is stopped in his tracks by the Dragons' defence. Photo: Getty Images

What do you make of the whole Mick Potter/ Wests Tigers saga? Actually, it’s more than just the Tigers and Potter. This stuff is happening everywhere. The world has gone crazy.

What is it that people want or expect from an NRL head coach?

What are the key indicators that tell you a club or team needs a change of head coach?

Who makes these decisions and what qualifies them to determine whether or not the coach is doing his job? What is it you think you are going to get from a new head coach that you can’t get from the man currently in charge?

Once you accept a job as a head coach in any sport you understand that intense scrutiny comes with the territory. You accept that you will be judged by fans, media, club management and ultimately the club’s board of directors.

It seems though, that in the modern era, head coaches are also judged by their own staff and players. The saying "he has lost the dressing room" has become almost cliché. What does that mean? 

How many in the dressing room actually voted as to whether or not the coach has lost their confidence? How many votes does it take to convince management or the board of directors that a new coach needs to be found? Who conducts this poll on whether or not the coach should continue? Where and when is this poll conducted?

If, in fact, players and staff are unhappy with certain aspects of the head coach’s work, then surely the first way to address this is face-to-face with the head coach himself. If the players and/or staff are going directly to the board members or club management outside of the proper forums, then surely this is a break in the chain of command that needs to be addressed.

If management and/or the Board members act on such complaints without first digging down deep to investigate the validity of the issues, or without some attempt to at least resolve the issues, then who is actually running the club?

If assistant coaches are working against the head coach, are they doing so in the best interests of the team or the club? Or are they protecting their own jobs or trying to advance their own cause within the organisation? It is the head coach with his name in the program? He is the one who wears the responsibility for all decisions relating to recruitment, retention, selections, playing styles and tactics.

The head coach needs to have confidence and trust in those around him. If not, he should be able to remove them.

This season is only eighteen matches old. It has been described by all and sundry as the closest competition race of all time.

Yet already this season we’ve seen two coaches sacked. We have another being told he has no job as from the end of the season. We had one caretaker coach quit his club due to lack of player support. We have another leaving his club to take on a role at his former club. If media reports are to be believed, we have another two coaches under pressure with their respective club’s conducting reviews into the team’s performances. And now we have Mick Potter and the Wests Tigers. For the life of me I can’t see what these coaches were doing so wrong that warranted sackings or the pressure of a public review. 

If a club is experiencing difficulties behind the scenes or the coach is not applying himself to the job in the proper manner, then it will surely manifest itself in the performances of the team.

To be honest, I see no such indicators with any of the 16 NRL clubs this season. Which brings me back to Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter.

Mick woke up on Sunday morning to find that everyone else in the world, except himself, was aware he was facing the sack. Club agitation had again found its way into the media.

The Tigers are having a better-than-expected season. One of the early favourites for the wooden spoon position, the Tigers still find themselves in with a chance to make the top eight, with only six rounds remaining. The team has performed creditably all season, despite the fact they have had a huge injury toll on key players and Origin football deprived them of star players at crucial times. I’ve seen them play some brilliant football. A month ago they produced one of the most courageous wins of the season against the Raiders despite suffering several major injuries during the match. Potter has nurtured and developed some of the game’s most exciting young talent. He is well mannered, well presented and quietly spoken. Potter has coached for 14 years without once losing his job for so-called non-performance.

Yet here he finds himself in an untenable position, with individuals inside his organisation, agitating for his removal. I dare say none of those pushing for his removal have ever been a head coach themselves.

I watch the Wests Tigers play every week. Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, I think I have a fair idea on what a well coached or poorly coached team looks like. I don’t see ANY poorly coached teams in this competition. No team is losing because of poor coaching.

I see champion players making a huge difference at crucial times. But there are only so many of these blokes to go around. I see just as many lazy players influencing results as well. Will they sack themselves? I bet plenty of assistant coaches have made mistakes as well. Have they put their hands up to accept responsibility? I feel sorry for Potter. I feel sorry for all head coaches these days. It’s a tough gig.

6 comments so far

  • Once again the voice of reason nails it. Thanks Phil. And here's another thing. Every season 8 coaches will have teams in the semi's and the other 8 won't but it's lunacy to assume those bottom 8 should all be sacked.

    Commenter
    That'll do me
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    July 28, 2014, 7:10AM
    • Unfortunately Gus, Football mirrors business. This is the "My friend the Axe Murderer" principle at work. No wins, No sins forgiven. Big wins, Big sins forgiven. And everything in between.

      Commenter
      nap-in-the-shade
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 28, 2014, 7:41AM
      • Its a fact of life that winning games is a KPI for any NRL coach......

        Loose too many games and you will certainly get sacked.....That's why Elliot,Price and Sharpe are no longer holding clip boards......and why Griffin has been sacked with a year and a bit remaining on his contract

        Results show that Cartwright,Stuart,Potter..............are simply "dead men walkin".........just waiting for that dreaded tap on the shoulder...its only a matter of time

        Commenter
        Francis J Farquar
        Location
        Wentworth Falls
        Date and time
        July 28, 2014, 8:05AM
        • To take your argument to its logical conclusion, then 15 coaches should be sacked at season's end.

          Results are about relative performance and achievement. Has a club over/under-achieved? As a start, I think the Eels and Tigers have over-achieved. Knights and Sharks under.

          How many expected the Tigers to be knocking on the door of the Top 8 at this stage of this season? I didn't and more so after Round 1.

          Commenter
          Growler
          Location
          The Coach
          Date and time
          July 28, 2014, 2:20PM
      • Ricky Stuart !

        Commenter
        Mankad
        Location
        The Bush
        Date and time
        July 28, 2014, 10:45AM
        • Agree 100%. Tigers were one of three teams I'd bracketed as possible wooden spooners (along with Dragons and Sharks). Potter has overachieved. They look like a team on the rise too. It's a very poor way to assess performance to simply look at wins and losses without any contextual information. But I think NRL and most sports really struggle with collecting and utilising data to make optimal decisions, both on and off the field

          I also think players need to look at themselves in these situations - e.g. last year with the Cowboys - if they are terrible and then win 6 in a row after it's announced the coach is sacked (but he is still there), how much accountability do the players need to take? These guys are professionals, mostly paid handsomely, and should be able to get over personal stuff to perform.

          Of course, this isn't an NRL problem - it impacts all sports. Soccer is perhaps the worst. I remember a few years ago Derby County got promoted to the EPL. They were expected to be midtable in the lower division, so overachieved massively. The next year they are predictably last in the EPL and completely outmatched, and the manager gets cut midseason. The same manager who had them playing in a league higher than they should be, is then adjudged to be not performing. If he'd missed promotion and continued being midtable in the lower league he'd be safe! Completely illogical.

          Commenter
          Rob
          Date and time
          July 28, 2014, 12:15PM

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          NRL Season 2015

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          MAN 24 vs MEL 22 Stats
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          PAR 29 vs SOU 16 Report Stats
          WST 24 vs CBY 25 Report Stats
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          NEW 26 vs PEN 14 Report Stats
          CRO 22 vs GCT 24 Report Stats
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          WAR 16 vs BRI 24 Report Stats
          SYD 34 vs CBR 6 Report Stats
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          SYD vs STG 16:00AS
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          BRI vs PAR 20:00SUN
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          CRO vs WAR 17:30Remondis Stadium
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          MAN vs NEW 14:00BO
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          GCT vs CRO 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
          MEL vs SOU 19:30AAMI
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          NEW vs WST 16:00HS
          Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
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          Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
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          CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO Stadium
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          Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
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          NQL vs MAN 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
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          SOU vs WAR 17:30nib Stadium
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          CRO vs SYD 16:00Remondis Stadium
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          Round 14
          Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
          WST vs SOU 19:45ANZ
          Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
          WAR vs SYD 18:00MSS
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          GCT vs CBY 16:00Cbus Super Stadium
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          Round 15
          Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
          MAN vs WST 19:45BO
          Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
          CBR vs NQL 15:00GIO Stadium
          GCT vs WAR 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
          CBY vs PEN 19:30ANZ
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          NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
          MEL vs BRI 16:00AAMI
          Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
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          Round 16
          Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
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          SOU vs MAN 19:35ANZ
          Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
          WAR vs CBR 15:00MSS
          NQL vs CRO 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
          PAR vs STG 19:30Pirtek Stadium
          Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
          SYD vs GCT 14:00AS
          WST vs PEN 16:00VAS
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          CBY vs MEL 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
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          Round 17
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          STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
          Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
          MAN vs CRO 16:00BO
          Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
          WST vs PAR 19:00ANZ
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          Round 18
          Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
          CBR vs NEW 19:45GIO Stadium
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          PEN vs SYD 17:30Pepper Stadium
          CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
          Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
          WAR vs MEL 14:00MSS
          CRO vs STG 16:00Remondis Stadium
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          Round 19
          Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
          PAR vs CBY 19:35ANZ
          MEL vs PEN 19:35AAMI
          Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
          CBR vs CRO 15:00GIO Stadium
          NEW vs GCT 17:30HS
          STG vs SOU 19:30SCG
          Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
          SYD vs WAR 14:00AS
          BRI vs WST 16:00SUN
          Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
          MAN vs NQL 19:00BO
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          Round 20
          Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
          BRI vs GCT 19:35SUN
          WST vs SYD 19:35ANZ
          Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
          WAR vs MAN 15:00MSS
          SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
          MEL vs STG 19:30AAMI
          Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
          PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
          CBY vs CRO 16:00Belmore Sports Ground
          Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
          NQL vs PAR 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
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          Round 21
          Thu, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
          WAR vs CRO 22:00MSS
          Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
          NQL vs CBR 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
          STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
          SOU vs PEN 00:00ANZ
          SYD vs CBY 00:00AS
          MAN vs BRI 00:00To Be Confirmed
          WST vs MEL 00:00VAS
          GCT vs PAR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
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          Round 22
          Thu, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
          WAR vs STG 22:00MSS
          Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
          BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
          NEW vs SYD 00:00HS
          CBR vs WST 00:00GIO Stadium
          MAN vs SOU 00:00BO
          CRO vs NQL 00:00Remondis Stadium
          MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
          PAR vs PEN 00:30TIO
          View All Fixtures
          Round 23
          Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
          BRI vs STG 00:00SUN
          CBY vs GCT 00:00To Be Confirmed
          NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
          PEN vs WAR 00:00Pepper Stadium
          CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
          SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
          CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
          WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
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          Round 24
          Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
          WAR vs NQL 22:00MSS
          Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
          STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
          SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
          SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
          MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
          CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
          MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
          GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
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          Round 25
          Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
          PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
          NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
          SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
          CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
          MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
          MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
          WST vs WAR 00:00CSS
          GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
          View All Fixtures
          Round 26
          Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
          BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
          CBY vs WAR 00:00ANZ
          NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
          STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
          PAR vs CBR 00:00Pirtek Stadium
          PEN vs NEW 00:00Pepper Stadium
          SYD vs SOU 00:00AS
          CRO vs MAN 00:00Remondis Stadium
          View All Fixtures
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          Overall standings
          Team P W L D Pts
          Newcastle Knights 4 4 0 0 8
          Sydney Roosters 4 3 1 0 6
          South Sydney Rabbitohs 4 3 1 0 6
          Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 4 3 1 0 6
          Brisbane Broncos 4 3 1 0 6
          Melbourne Storm 3 2 1 0 4
          Penrith Panthers 4 2 2 0 4
          Parramatta Eels 4 2 2 0 4
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