Coaches under pressure

Rugby League silly season must be here. No I’m not talking about the next franchise farce that will see fans in uproar and others looking smug. Nor am I talking about big overseas signings (has anyone seen Willie Mason yet?).

The issue I’m concerned about is bookmakers looking to put pressure on coaches, as well as supporters discussing the sack race.

In the past clubs have panicked and got rid of their coaches early in the season but rarely have those clubs gone on to achieve success.

I cannot for the life of me understand why a coach would bother with all the delicate negotiations that go on between players and agents, plan training sessions, book venues, sort weights, medical care, physiotherapists, only to have a P45 issued at the mere hint of trouble.

I liken it to a captain of an ocean liner being pushed overboard just as his ship has left harbour, or an ejector seat being fired on a fighter pilot just as his jet has left the tarmac.

The last time this happened was at Widnes in 2009 when Steve McCormack signed the squad, ran his pre-season, booked friendly games, watched his team in the subsequent encounters and was then fired in what seemed like a knee-jerk reaction after a very good Oldham performance saw them snatch a 22-20 win at the Stobart.

I thought it was madness then and it still seems like madness now that people are calling for the head of Sean McRae at Salford and counterpart Richard Agar at Hull, especially in the new Super League dawn we live in where teams are virtually exempt from the normal rules of relegation.

Whilst it’s frustrating for fans to see lots of points conceded and losing rugby, sometimes the games themselves do not tell the whole story.

That same season, Leigh finished in a relegation spot in the Championship and midway through the campaign, assistant coach Paul Rowley was thrust into the top job with Neil Kelly moving upstairs. I know that the players on Leigh’s books at the time were not relegation fodder, but the club entered a spiral and could not pull themselves out. Indeed one of the more impressive performers from that year, Martyn Ridyard was in his first year as a professional player, in a position that is heavily scrutinised and just two years later, because he has been given the chance to develop, he is repaying that faith by the bucketload in an impressive start to 2011.

I guess the point I am making is that if Leigh had been short-sighted, they may have packed Ridyard back off to the amateur game, his chances lost. The same thing can happen with coaches.

Whilst I don’t think Richard Agar would suddenly turn up at Skirlaugh for example, after going through so much preparation time and putting so much into getting a squad of players together, it would be crazy to end that without him being given a proper chance to see the fruits of his labour develop.

So often the game over here looks to Australia for inspiration but this week I suggest they look away after Ivan Henjak was bumped off at Brisbane Broncos. Why let a coach get virtually to the season and then fire him?

Answers on a postcard courtesy of the Stobart and Suncorp stadia!

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