GEAR UP FOR THE WEEKEND | Round 21 of the #NRL kicks off tonight with the Roosters hosting the Bronc...
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This week we have three real bone-crunching issues to stick our teeth into. First and foremost, the Roosters? decision to sack coach Ricky Stuart. Also, the drugs debate with North Queensland?s Mitchell Sargent receiving the grim news that his contract was to be torn up after testing positive to cocaine use, and the demise of the Cronulla Sharks who seem to have gone missing in action for the last eight weeks. But we?ll start with the dramas at Bondi.
I think there were both positives and negatives for the Sydney Roosters in the aftermath of yesterday?s decision to sack coach Ricky Stuart. The most noted positive is the fact that management, in my view, has made the correct decision. The major negative is the club?s short list of potential replacements for Stuart.
Brad Fittler and Phil Gould have headed the list of candidates for Roosters coaching replacements. But in courting these two to the position, the Roosters are making the same mistakes now as they have in the past.
Gould boasts a knowledgeable football mind but has already tried his hand at coaching the Roosters for minimal success. Whilst he has the best coaching record in State of Origin history, coaching a first grade side week-in week-out is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Developing young footballers into becoming first graders vastly differs from being able to bring out the best in great players. Having said that, Gould is unlikely to take up a full-time coaching role due his media commitments. He may resume his role as coaching director but there was no evidence of that working at all last time round.
Appointing Fittler to the position would be taking a similar risk to their decision to appoint Stuart to the post in 2002. Fittler would make a young and enthusiastic coach who is recently retired. But, as Stuart was in early 2002, is unproven and an unknown in the coaching stakes.
In fact, Fittler?s appointment would entail further risks than Stuart?s because of his apparent lack of communicational skills. It?s hard to argue that Fittler would have the required footballing knowledge, but after hearing his way of conveying his messages throughout various media outlets, the Roosters could probably do without him also.
On the decision to sack Stuart itself, you can?t argue with Nick Politis and the Roosters? hierarchy. There are two apparent deficiencies with Stuart?s coaching. The first is his ability to bring out the best in proven performers, Ashley Harrison and Braith Anasta to name a couple. Both had career-best seasons for their respective clubs last season but ever since donning the red, white and blue their performances simply haven?t reached the same heights.
The second is his petulance with regard to the way he carries himself on the sidelines. Some say it?s great to see the coaches show passion ? and it is. But when a coach resorts to extremes such as kicking chairs on the sidelines in venting his obvious frustration, it clearly sends the wrong messages to his players. If you realise you cannot control your emotions as a coach, it?s probably a better idea to take your seat up in the coach?s box where you are not visible to the players. This is something Craig Bellamy has obviously acknowledged.
The other question mark I have out of the Stuart issue is why he was appointed to the role of Australian coach. We now have a farcical situation where our national coach isn?t good enough to coach an NRL side. I think with his Roosters role relinquished, he should also be forced to hand over his post as national coach. The point being, he should have never been appointed to the position initially, as he was behind a number of others in the pecking order.
The Roosters should attempt to appoint John Lang as coach. He will offer an experienced and controlled approach ? something they?re in desperate need of at the moment.
Away from the Roosters and onto the drugs debate. I have two main queries with what has occurred. The incident at which Penrith?s Frank Pritchard was forced to wake at 5am to provide a urine sample was ludicrous. David Gallop?s argument for this to continue to occur was that certain substances can be flushed from the system in a very short period. But my argument is why it was Frank Pritchard? It wasn?t as though ASADA were tipped off that Pritchard had taken illegal substances. This was a completely random test and I think the NRL should take a long, hard look at themselves for agreeing to this government proposal for a more ruthless testing system.
In saying that, the government would not have provided any funding to the sport had the NRL refused to sign the agreement. Had other codes also decided to fight the government proposal, a substantially supported move against the proposition would have held great credence. Drug testing is fine as long as it?s in a team environment. When testers begin to invade players? privacy they are crossing the line by a long way.
The other qualm I have is in the case of both the action taken against the Cowboys? Mitchell Sargent for cocaine use and the similar penalties which apply to both the convicted recreational drug users and performance-enhancing drug users.
I feel that Sargent was unfairly treated in the wake of his positive test, and I held the same feelings for Wendell Sailor when he received a two-year ban after testing positive to a recreational substance. Clubs used to help their players when they were enduring personal problems, rather than hang them out to dry. What do we now expect players like Sargent and Sailor to transpire to? Shall they deal drugs until their respective bans expire? They?re not cheats. They just have personal issues. The clubs and governing bodies should be there to help these players, not crucify them.
I feel that a fine and an eight-match suspension, as well as subsequent counselling for the player concerned are an appropriate course of action. As for performance-enhancing drug-users, a minimum ban of two years is adequate depending on the circumstances of use.
And lastly, the problem for the Cronulla Sharks lies squarely on the shoulders of halfback Brett Kimmorley. Coach Stuart Raper has continuously evaded the reality that the combination of he and Adam Dykes simply doesn?t work. Since his return from injury the Sharks have been hard-pressed to find a victory. Kimmorley would have to be one of the more overrated halfbacks of the modern era and it is imperative that the Sharks find a proven replacement.
That?s all for the rant this week. Until next week, enjoy your footy!