It was never a promising season for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Matthew Gallagher looks at h...
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When Daniel Anderson came to the Warriors last season he made no secret of the fact that he was excited by the chance to coach against the best in the world.
The pair have never met or spoken.
Daniel, widely regarded as the reason the Warriors have woken from a six-year slumber, admits he would like Chris' Australian job. All in the future, of course.
"You don't think about those things every day, but just as players have ambitions ...
"The Aussie job is the pinnacle."
And there is no secret he will take extra satisfaction if the Warriors can set a club record of six successive wins when they meet the Sharks at Ericsson Stadium tomorrow. "Absolutely," he fires back when asked if he's looking forward to it.
Chris Anderson didn't take the team in the pre-season game in Christchurch because he was still recovering from the heart surgery he had after collapsing during the Kangaroos' last test in England late last year.
It will be the first time the Andersons have opposed each other.
"He [Chris] is like a benchmark in the game," Daniel said.
"He's won grand finals with two teams [Canterbury 1995, Melbourne Storm 1999]. There's always extra satisfaction if you can beat someone like that."
He and assistant Tony Kemp spend hours digesting and dissecting video film, then they work with individuals on fine points within the game.
Players have all been told to strengthen specific areas of their body, so they don't get turned in tackles, so they can off-load with more security, so they hit harder in defence.
There is individual instruction in ball grip and passing technique. Kemp works a lot with the in-game kickers Stacey Jones, P. J. Marsh, Lance Hohaia and Brent Webb, teaching when and where to place the ball.
Predecessor Mark Graham used to instil rigid grids for various plays and the players responded with confusion.
Anderson gives a much freer guideline.
They have worked hard on decision-making - when to pass and when not to, when to run wide and when to set a platform in the middle.
The unforced error rate has dropped substantially, so they have a greater share of possession, do less tackling, are therefore less tired and are more able to do something with their share of ball.
Competition for spots has been pumped up, with no one guaranteed a walk-up start.
A 20-test Kiwi, Logan Swann, sits in the stands for the sixth weekend in a row and Anderson says the player will stay in the Bartercard Cup competition until he forces his way back.
Anderson doesn't believe in the rotation system advocated by his previous boss, Brian Smith at Parramatta, where players are moved within the team and from team to bench or vice versa, rested and returned.
"I'm not going to rest anyone - why would I rest Jerry [Seuseu] or Awen [Guttenbeil], given the form they're in? They're more resilient, I think, my big Kiwi boys. They thrive on it.
"If form drops off or they need a break to heal injuries, fair enough, but if their enthusiasm and attitude is good, I want to keep that momentum going."
The players have a top-four swagger about them now, and Anderson doesn't mind that.
"It's important to learn how to capitalise on the good feeling."
The Warriors will be instructed to attack the inexperienced Sharks players, to lift the pressure when Chris Anderson goes to his bench, and to take advantage of the hostile Ericsson environment for visitors.
The Sharks are without six top-graders - captain David Peachey, with a hamstring injury, five-eighths Michael Sullivan and Luke Branighan, second-rowers Phil Bailey and Sam Isemonger and prop Jason Stevens, all with bad knees.
The injury toll has been cited as the reason the club has lost six on the trot, but that has not stopped Cronulla supporters giving Chris Anderson a roasting.
The joy with which he was welcomed to Cronulla because of his expertise and player pulling-power has gone, and if he can't stop the slide before they slip past the Sharks' record of nine consecutive losses, all playoff chances will be gone with it.
JUST THE FACTS
Age 49. From Canterbury-Bankstown. As a coach: 281 premiership games at Canterbury, the Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks for 167 wins, 108 losses, six drawn. Winning percentage, 59.4. Australian coach 1999-2002, World Cup win 2000.
Age 41. From Fairfield, west Sydney. As a coach: High school senior grade coach, appointed Parramatta Eels development coach 1997, elevated to first division coach 1999 and won grand final, promoted to premiership assistant coach Brian Smith in 2000. At the Warriors, won 12, lost 13 and drew two last year. Winning percentage, 44.4. This season, nine wins, two losses. Overall winning percentage, 55.