Thursday, January 18, 2007

Daniel Anderson extends St Helens contract

Well Daniel Anderson has extended his contract with St Helens until the end of 2008. Sometimes I wonder what was so wrong with the Warriors that they let this guy go. Had he not extended with St Helens he would have been in line to coach Great Britain or would have been the most in demand club coach in the world.

He was named coach of the year in the UK Sporting Personality awards 2006 (kind of like the Halberg awards) - having coached St Helens to the Super League "treble" this year winning the Challenge Cup, minor Premiership and Grand Final. Anderson has done what most departing Warriors players do and that is flourish elsewhere. Why is this still the case?

Cleary needs to have a long hard think about this - unless there is something fundamentally different about coaching the Super League vs coaching the NRL (and maybe there is).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

An ongoing battle: style v consistency

Well first let me say that this is going to be the last post on this blog about Sione for sometime. Frankly the amount of column inches the guy has gotten lately you would think he had actually won something. I am not a fan of fame for fames sake. However Sione has certainly got me thinking.

My thinking began as I worked my way through a little side project - developing a definition of the term Brain Explosion, my efforts so far as follows:

Brain Explosion

1. An inexplicable individual act or play during an NRL match without the apparent exercise of reasoned judgement; or

2. Bizarre or inexplicable individual behaviour without the apparent exercise of reasoned judgement in the private life or contract dealings of an NRL player.

Whilst working on this (for hours I can assure you) it occurred to me that there is a key distinction here - brain explosions in the outside world are generally negative whilst brain explosions on the field of play only become brain explosions if they have negative consequences. Let me compare a couple of examples:

1. Carlos Spencer's decision to pass into the hands of the on rushing Stirling Mortlock who scored under the posts as a result during the 2003 world cup semi-final - undoubted brain explosion - negative impact

2. Sione Faumauina's decision to kick-pass the ball cross-field towards the far touchline into the hands of the onrushing Francis Meli to score one of five trys vs the Bulldogs in the 2003 NRL semi-finals - if this decision had it not worked out perfectly would be considered a brain explosion - it was totally original and unexpected

3. After a 70m line busting break Ali Lauitiiti elects to pass the ball one handed behind his back to onrushing Stacey Jones who scores under the posts v the Broncoes during the 2002 (?) season - again had this play not worked out perfectly this would be considered a brain explosion - if the ball had gone to ground rather than to hand it would have been a waste of a game winning chance to score

So lets recap - a brain explosion is something more than a questionable exercise of judgement - it becomes a brain explosion when it is proven to be a stupid mistake by virtue of the outcome of the play. And there is something deeper at stake here - if we look at points 2 and 3 above - these were memorable Warriors plays notable for their skill, finesse, originality and style. Yes I say style because the Warriors have been at battle with themselves for many years on just this issue - style and finesse play v straightforward consistent percentages play.

A player like Sione typifies this for me. Without wanting to toot my own horn at the outset of last years season I noted the decision to appoint Sione as Warriors no 6. could be a poor one - in particular because the Warriors might benefit from the stability and predictability of a more vanilla playmaker. Enter Rovelli and I am proved right. This doesn't take away from or deny Sione's talent for making the amazing play - it just recognises that the NRL is about wins and wins requires consistency over a season rather than just flashes of brilliance. Toopi and the Hotstepper could be seen as casualties of the same issue - style v consistency.

Cleary's challenge - and its the same challenge that all Warriors coaches have faced - is to harness the innate style and finesse that this squad has and mould it into consistent performances. There is a time and a place for style and it is on your opponents 10m line with the ball in hand on the 4th tackle. No one wants to see the originality and spontaneity of this squad coached out of the side - ala Mark Graham's tenure - we want to see solid percentages play that produces chances that are then finished with finesse and style. Players like Webb and Koopu typify the ideal Warriors player to me - solid and consistent but with the capability to produce an original or finesse play when the moment requries it.

There is no arguing that this is a rant - the internal tangents and contradictions of my argument are apparent to me as well - but I have looked back over the last few posts and it occurs to me that I have been revelling in the derision of Sione's bizarreness when it is just this quality that endears me to his play on the league field. If the man could harness his talent through hard work and application and then perform consistently he would deserve the coverage he has gotten. Just don't do it against the Warriors Sione - I can't handle the pain of anymore ex-Warrriors dishing out on the boys.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cleary Year II - season outlook

Hi all

Thought it might be helpful to fill the time between now and the kick off of the Warriors season on March 19 at Mt Smart v Eels to take a look at last season one more time to see whether there are any pointers to the future in the results.

As posted on this blog at the close of the season last year Cleary finished up with a 2006 season record which he can be justifiably proud of 12 wins and 12 losses from 24 games. This record should have seen the Warriors make the playoffs (in 8th spot) for only the fourth season in their twelve year history however the 4 point deduction for the salary cap breach killed off any chance of the playoffs. Looked at in comparison to previous Warriors seasons 2006 does rank very well - fourth overall - together with 1995, 2002 and 2003 the only seasons the Warriors have managed to win 50% or more of their games.

The end of last season saw something of a Warriors spurt as they put on some impressive performances whilst chasing a mathematical shot at the playoffs. Lets take a quick look at those last six games after the Round 20 bye with the most recent first:

Round 26 - Loss - Broncoes 36 v Warriors 12
Round 25 - Win - Warriors 42 v Roosters 16
Round 24 - Win - Storm 20 v Warriors 24
Round 23- Win - Warriors 26 v Cowboys 0
Round 22 - Win - Warriors 12 v Sharks 10
Round 21 - Loss - Penrith 26 v Warriors 6

So the Warriors won 4 out of 6 losing only to the eventual NRL champion Broncoes and the Panthers away. The points differential for these six games alone was +14. They scored an average of 20.3 points whilst giving up an average of 17.7 points.

So this form looks promising - a consistent 2 in 3 winning percentage would see the boys cruise into the playoffs however the defence still has problems - while the points differential is positive this is really only due to the blowouts in rounds 25 and 23 - otherwise the Warriors are still leaking far too many points. This needs to be addressed. In addition it should be noted of the teams beaten in the last six games only the Storm actually made it to the playoffs (although in first place!).

So I think overall their are grounds for hope but not unrestrained enthusiam. Brent Webb is a big loss and it remains to be seen how the team will adjust to life without him cleaning up at the back.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Piri Weepu to train with Newcastle Knights

This is a really interesting development whereby Piri Weepu has been sanctioned by the NZRU as part of his pre-world cup training program to participate in pre-season training with the NRL's Newcastle Knights. As you know the All Blacks are being held out of the Super 14 to rest up and in order to maintain fitness levels this is one innovative scheme that has been devised. While I think this sounds emminently sensible and its pretty cool that the NZRU are sufficiently relaxed to let a 2008 NRL prospect train with the code he could switch to it also strikes me as very bizarre. I mean if Weepu needs fitness and rugby training why doesn't he train with a Super 14 franchise? I note the Super 14 season starts on 2 February 2007. The apparent rationalisation is that Weepu will be able to train alongside Joey Johns and thereby grow his ball and kicking skills. There may be something in this but it still seems odd that Johns and Weepu would be singled out to work together. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated - in particular if Nonu or Weepu do go to league in 2008 the Warriors better have their chequebooks out and their salary cap down to zero in anticipation.

Update : The lovefest continues in Newcastle - Joey and Piri are quite taken with each other

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Faumuina's future is an "Agatha Christie novel".

I am beginning to think the Herald likes Sione almost as much as this blog does. Chris Rattue is letting rip in this opinion piece.

Check out the latest developments with Sione as described last week in anticipation with Sione apparently about to sign for the Cowboys including Frank Endacott describing Faumuina's future as an "Agatha Christie novel"

Subsequently it appears Sione has already put pen to paper with the Cowboys. Apparently the deal came about after the Cowboys management laid down the law to the big man about their strict disciplinarian approach at the club. Sounds to me like this is going to work out great.

Also found this blog entry re drinking specialist Faumuina's continued battles with his Rugby League habit.