The round 12 Monday night game between the Sydney Roosters and the Canterbury Bulldogs had an unlikely shining star in the form of mid-season signing Krisnan Inu.
Released from his contract with the Warriors after seeing little game time during his two years in Auckland, he was bought in by coach Des Hasler to fill a gap in the injury struck Canterbury backline.
His impact for the Dogs was instant. Scoring two tries, having a hand in another as well as kicking three conversions.
None of this is truly a surprise to those of us who have followed Inu’s career. He is one of the most naturally gifted athletes and rugby league players in the game today. But during his time with the Warriors he struggled to make or keep a spot in first grade. Most weekends he plied his trade with the Warriors feeder team, The Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup.
Under previous coach Ivan Cleary he failed to impress in the pregame trials, and despite his huge price tag (estimated to be around or above $250,000 per season) only gained a start in the top side due to injury.
It would be off the mark to say that Inu didn’t perform well for the Warriors. From the stands he did look like his efforts were half hearted, lacking real effort. Never the less, his amazing talent meant that he’d still pull off the remarkable with his trade mark nonchalance. It was Inu’s finger tip try that got the Warriors home against the Tigers in last years NRL Finals.
In company with the other players he looked every bit as committed. Celebrating, commiserating, encouraging his team mates as often as any other team mate.
Brian ‘Bluey’ McClennan took over after Ivan Cleary was also granted an early release by the Warriors. But seemed to be taking a similar approach with Inu.
Again, in 2012 he failed to start the season. Once again, through injury he was called in, until an error at fullback during a tight match against the Storm underlined his ill-disciplined style of play. A one handed carry turned into a knock on, without a single defender in sight. The resulting set lead to a ruthless Melbourne come back.
A loss like that cannot be blamed on Inu alone. But as a senior player in a key position, the coach would (rightly) expect much more. Exit Inu for the remainder of his time with the Warriors.
From the Warriors point of view there have been two positive reasons for opting to not field Inu. Of late those two reasons have started to pay dividends. They are Ben Henry, and Konrad Hurrell, both new players to first grade.
Hurrell in particular has taken some time to come to grips with playing first grade week in week out, but has physically dominated his opponents in every match, and looks settled. Ben Henry has had a more consistent ride through his first season at the top, and now commands the same respect (and expectation) as players such as Elijah Taylor and ever Simon Mannering.
The way things have been going at center for the Warriors lately, it was going to be a tough ask for Inu to play his way back in. And looking at the circumstances around the players preferred in the mid-field, it seems that the coach has had a different route in mind the whole time. Choosing to go with part timers such as Louis Brown or Mannering, and trusting in the developing careers of Hurrell and Henry.
It should be pointed out that Henry is playing out of position at center. He captained the under 20’s squad from the back row. And Konrad Hurrell is only in his second season of rugby league after switching codes from a successful school boy rugby career, as well as being in only his 3rd year speaking the English language(!).
So looking at the big picture, it seems that Inu has been on the outer for a while. As outsiders we can only hazard a guess that his laid back approach may not have sat well with his coaches. The Warriors have an incredibly strong, and much cheaper, feeder system in place. So it seems like the character expectations placed on the younger up and coming players carries over to those at the top as well.
Coaches build their success on attitude and personality as much as skill development or strategy. So Inu, more then likely made fledgling coaches like McClennan and Cleary nervous (McClennan has won a tri-nations title, and super league premierships, but he is in his first season in the NRL).
Inu looked instantly at home in his first run for the Dogs. Good on the Warriors for allowing a player of his cost and calibre, who may well have been called on again at some stage, go.
As fans we all want to see the best players running around each week. It’s a shame that things didn’t work out in Auckland, but in a scenario such as this, it’s ultimately worked out win-win all round.