The New Zealand Warriors ended the Andrew McFadden era by replacing him with current Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney. McFadden was under huge pressure to wreck the wrongs of the disaster of the previous season and because of the club's tenth place standing, he's relegated to Kearney's assistant.
The Warriors are one of the most exciting teams in the NRL. No one can deny that. But the talent they've accumulated has not translated into a top eight finish in five years.
What disappointed fans and critics of the Warriors in the McFadden era was his failure to take advantage of that talent. He had Shaun Johnson in his squad, the most destructive ball running half in the NRL. Johnson was top five in the NRL in try assists, top twenty in line breaks, and he scored double figures in tries. At his best, the game comes so easy to him. Unfortunately for fans, Johnson was inconsistent all season, and Cappy never got him to wind it in.
Part of a coaches job is to solve the inconsistency problems in their players. Coach Cappy needed to get the best out of his star player week in and week out, and that just never happened.
Another criticism of the McFadden era this year, was his head scratching team selections. An over-reliance on Jonathan Wright and Blake Ayshford left me confused, especially when you consider the plethora of outside back talent at the Warriors. A talent like David Fusitua should have been playing more.
But what was most troubling this season, was coach Cappy’s horror show non-usage of Tuimoala Lolohea. Cappy constantly shifted Lolohea from position to position. He even placed him on the bench or gave him ridiculously low minutes, much to the uproar and confusion of Australian pundits like Mark Gasnier and Brad Fittler. Undoubtedly this dented Tui’s confidence and his season never really picked up.
McFadden's stint at Mt Smart has been blighted by unlucky injuries, however. The Shaun Johnson left ankle injury last season left the team in a terrible situation, and they were never able to recover. This season, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck suffered a season-ending injury in April. Not to mention Isaac Luke came to the club unfit and Tui had a short stint out, after a knee injury. Despite this, though, most teams go through unlucky season-ending injuries, but they still recover. The Warriors didn't, and that's why Cappy has been demoted.
There is no doubt the Warriors have a squad that can win the NRL title.
In naming Stephen Kearney, they have a coach who presided over a team that beat arguably one of the greatest Australian league teams consistently. Along with Kearny, they have acquired three assistant coaches (including McFadden) and have implemented a football advisory board.
With a new coach and more resources, the Warriors can only go up, because the alternative will not be pretty.