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Comment: The NRL coaches with their heads on the chopping block

The Roar The Roar 1/09/2016 Tim Gore

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden: Dead man walking? © Dave Rowland/Getty Images Warriors coach Andrew McFadden: Dead man walking? There is one stat in 2016 that is quite amazing: so far, no first grade coach has been sacked.

That is highly unlikely to be the case come October. Just have a look at the history of coaches being sacked during the NRL era:

Season Number sacked Coaches sacked Teams
2015 3 Ivan Cleary, Rick Stone, Geoff Toovey Panthers, Knights, Sea Eagles
2014 4 Matthew Elliot, Steve Price, Mick Potter, Anthony Griffin Warriors, Dragons, Wests Tigers, Broncos
2013 2 David Furner, Neil Henry Raiders, Cowboys
2012 4 Tim Sheens, Brian McClennan, Stephen Kearney, Brian Smith Wests Tigers, Warriors, Eels, Roosters
2011 3 Kevin Moore, Matthew Elliot, Ivan Henjak Bulldogs, Panthers, Broncos
2010 1 Daniel Anderson Eels
2009 2 Brad Fittler, Jason Taylor Roosters, Rabbitohs
2008 2 Nathan Brown, Steve Folkes Dragons, Bulldogs
2007 1 Chris Anderson Roosters
2006 4 Stuart Raper, Shaun McRae, Brian Smith, Ricky Stuart Sharks, Rabbitohs, Eels, Roosters
2005 1 Tony Kemp Warriors
2004 2 Paul Langmack, Daniel Anderson Rabbitohs, Warriors
2003 1 Chris Anderson Sharks
2002 5 Murray Hurst, Mark Murray, Terry Lamb, Craig Coleman, Andrew Farrar Cowboys, Storm, Wests Tigers, Rabbitohs, Dragons
2001 3 Tim Sheens, Chris Anderson, Royce Simmons, Cowboys, Storm, Panthers
2000 3 Mark Graham, Wayne Pearce, David Waite Warriors, Wests Tigers, Dragons
1999 1 Peter Louis Bears
1998 3 Rod Reddy, Frank Endacott, Steve Martin Rams, Warriors, Rabbitohs
AVERAGE 2.5
TOTAL 45 3 = Chris Anderson 2 = Tim Sheens, Matthew Elliot, Daniel Anderson, Brian Smith 5 = Rabbitohs, Warriors

4 = Dragons, Roosters, Wests Tigers

3 = Panthers, Eels, Cowboys,

2 = Broncos, Bulldogs, Storm, Sharks

1 = Knights, Raiders, Rams, Sea Eagles, Bears

In all 18 seasons there has never been an instance where at least one coach hasn’t got sacked.

So surely all current 16 coaches can’t make it through the end of season review and turn up for the 2017 season, right?

There is no question that there will be a few very nervous coaches right now, and with good reason. An average of 2.5 get sacked a season. Surely at least one will get the boot.

However, there are a number who are safe as houses:

  • Craig Bellamy
  • Shane Flanagan
  • Ricky Stuart
  • Paul Green
  • Wayne Bennett

Then there are those who are pretty safe:

  • Des Hasler
  • Anthony Griffin
  • Neil Henry

Let’s look at the other eight coaches and their chances for retention.

Nathan Brown – Newcastle Knights

Unless the Knights pull off a win against the odds against the Dragons this Saturday, they’ll finish the season with just one solitary win and a draw.

It is not the record for the worst ever season though. Seven times a side has gone through a season without winning a game, the last of which was the Roosters in 1966.

The worst defensive record belongs to Tom Raudonikis’ 1999 Western Suburbs Magpies team, which leaked 944, at an average of 39.33 points a game. The Knights only concede 33.56 a game on average.

However, the Knights season is the worst for a long time. So surely coach Nathan Brown’s head is on the chopping block? Not necessarily.

Have they improved on 2015?

No. In 2015 the Knights got the spoon as well but they won a respectable eight games. This year has been awful.

Have they had injury issues?

Yes. Jarrod Mullen is vital to their side but surely must be now seen as an injury crock. Robbie Rochow has also spent a lot of time on the sidelines.

Did they lose any good players?

Did they what! Tyrone Roberts, Beau Scott, Joe Tapine, Tariq Sims and Chris Houston.

Have they had scandals?

No. After the horror of the Nathan Tinkler era the Knights have seemed to be quite stable off the field.

Have they had offensive issues?

Most certainly. Last season the Knights scored an average of 19 points a game. This season they are only managing 12. While Dane Gagai and Nathan Ross can put on a good try, their team is very young and has very little in the way of combinations. Trent Hodkinson hasn’t been able to work with a regular 5/8 all season.

Have they had defensive issues?

Yes. 33.56 points conceded a game on average is really bad. They miss 35 tackles a match, concede seven line breaks and six tries. The defence is a mess. They have 18 regular players that miss over two tackles a game.

Are the fans calling for the coaches head?

Probably. But it certainly doesn’t seem to be overwhelming. It seems as though people knew that there were going to be a few tough years. Further, the Knights average crowd of just a tic under 15,000 is quite excellent.

Verdict: SAFE, for now.

Nathan Brown certainly won’t be relaxing but he should be back for season 2017. However, if results don’t start improving the Knights will have their fifth coach in four years by around Round 10.

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown. © Tony Feder/Getty Images Newcastle coach Nathan Brown.

Trent Robinson – Sydney Roosters

With three straight minor Premierships and one Premiership over the previous three seasons, Trent Robinson was awarded the ‘Supercoach’ moniker. After just six wins so far this season it seems that title may have been awarded slightly early.

Have they improved on 2015?

No. The Roosters won 18 matches and the Minor Premiership in 2015, bowing out in the preliminary final to the Broncos. This season they’ve won just six matches and only won three of their first 18.

Have they had injury issues?

Yes. Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are a vital part of the side and have managed just 21 games between them. Further, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Dale Copley both suffered injuries.

Did they lose any good players?

Absolutely. It was a star studded departure lounge: James Maloney, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Michael Jennings are about as big as departures get.

Have they had scandals?

Yes. Mitchell Pearce started the year off appallingly for the Roosters with his antics that had him miss virtually the first half of the season. While hardly a scandal, the vibe surrounding Jackson Hastings unhappiness wasn’t the best.

Have they had offensive issues?

Yes. In 2015 the Roosters scored at 24.6 points a game on average. That has gone down to 18.65 in 2016.

Have they had defensive issues?

This is where the real problem is. They’ve gone from conceding a superb 12.5 points a game in 2015 to a whopping 24 a game this season. Their missed tackles and line breaks conceded are actually only average. Their issue is that they’ve been giving their oppositions too much ball as they are averaging 11.9 errors a match, the worst in the NRL. That has led to them conceding the third most tries this season.

Are the fans calling for the coaches head?

Not yet. However, Trent’s reputation has been tarnished somewhat. The Bondi faithful will be hoping for a better 2017 with fewer injuries and hopefully no scandals. If that happens we should see them return to the finals.

Verdict: SAFE

Supercoach Robinson will be hell bent on proving that he is the real deal in 2017 and – barring major disasters and underperformance – I can’t see him being sacked anytime soon.

Brad Arthur – Parramatta Eels

Queen Elizabeth’s Annus Horribilus had nothing on what Brad Arthur has had to deal with in 2016. It just kept getting worse. However, Arthur has kept his men fighting to the end.

Have they improved on 2015?

Yes. While only six of their twelve victories count this year, they’ve still won three more matches than last year.

Have they had injury issues?

Yes. Tim Mannah, Semi Radradra and Kieran Foran all missed quite a few games through injury.

Did they lose any good players?

Who didn’t they lose… Kieran Foran, Corey Norman, Junior Paulo, Nathan Peats. No side can lose that amount of talent and remain competitive.

Have they had scandals?

The salary cap scandal has been the big ticket scandal in 2016. It was followed up by Corey Norman and Junior Paulo having Chinese with alleged criminals. Not a great year.

Have they had offensive issues?

Yes. Their attack stats across the board (Trys, line breaks, tackle breaks, metres) are all below the NRL average in 2016. They average just 18 points a game. Only Newcastle and the Dragons average less.

Have they had defensive issues?

Their defence is actually ok. They have missed the second fewest tackles in the NRL after the Storm this year. Their errors are the third highest this season and they concede 18.5 points on average a game.

Are the fans calling for the coaches head?

Absolutely not. Brad Arthur is the most popular man at the Eels. He has held the side together with string and wire and kept the teams dignity intact with some fighting performances.

Verdict: Totally Safe. Only Peter Sterling is safer.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor fronts a losing media conference in Townsville. © Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images Dragons coach Paul McGregor fronts a losing media conference in Townsville.

Michael Maguire – South Sydney Rabbitohs

Coach McGuire is one focused man. His team, however, hasn’t been. After the 50 point belting at the hands of the Raiders it is clear that the rot has stopped, with the Rabbitohs playing their best footy of the season. Have they done enough to save their coach though?

Have they improved on 2015?

No. While the Rabbitohs lost their last four matches of 2015 straight to limp out of the finals, they won 13 games for the season. They can only win a maximum of nine now, clearly missing the finals. Their last three wins on the trot broke an 11 game losing streak and have improved the look of the season, but not much.

Have they had injury issues?

Adam Reynolds and John Sutton have missed plenty of football, as have the Burgess twins. Further, Greg Inglis has been playing on one leg for lots of the year.

Did they lose any good players?

The Rabbitohs have lost two good players for disciplinary reasons in Paul Carter and Kirisome Auva’a. Futher, they released Chris Grevsmuhl. Dylan Walker went to the Sea Eagles in the off season.

Have they had scandals?

Aaron Gray and Dylan Walker went to hospital after an incident with sleeping tablets. Paul Carter and Kirisome Auva’a were released for continual infractions.

Have they had offensive issues?

All of their attacking stats are below average, with their metres gained the second lowest in the NRL, after only Newcastle.

Have they had defensive issues?

The Rabbitohs built their 2014 Premiership on the back of brilliant defence. their missed tackles, line breaks conceded and tries conceded were the best in the comp. In 2016 none of those stats was better than average and they are third worst for tries conceded.

Are the fans calling for the coaches head?

No, but there is disquiet. A number of assistant coaching positions appear to be changing. McGuire will probably not last another poor season.

Verdict: Safe for now but things need to improve quickly.

Trent Barrett – Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Barrett controversially replaced favourite son Geoff Toovey at the end of 2015. However, things have not gone smoothly for the former Dragon. Injuries and poor form have led to a frustrating season.

Have they improved on 2015?

No. they just missed out on the fonals in 2015 with 11 wins. Even if they beat Penrith on Sunday they’ll only have nine wins all up.

Have they had injury issues?

Yes. Brenton Lawrence missed most of the Season. Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai have been out as much as they have been in. Jamie Buhrer and Nate Myles have both missed lots of games, as have Brett Stewart and Josh Starling.

Did they lose any good players?

Apart from Kieran Foran, Matt Ballin, Clinton Gutherson and Peta Hiku, no one really…

Have they had scandals?

The allegations of previous match fixing has hung heavy over the club at times.

Have they had offensive issues?

In attack their average metres gained are spot on average. However, their line breaks, tackle breaks and tries scored are all well below average.

Have they had defensive issues?

The Sea Eagles are fourth worst for missed tackles and line breaks conceded. They are also equal third worst for tries conceded.

Are the fans calling for the coaches head?

Not yet, but it won’t be long. Unlike Geoff Toovey and Des Hasler, the Brookvale faithful have no emotional connection to Barrett whatsoever. He needs results ASAP.

Verdict: Precarious but not in immediate danger

While it is possible that Barrett will be cut, they’ll probably want to persevere a while longer.

Paul McGregor – St George Illawarra Dragons

McGregor took over from the sacked Steve Price in 2014. He has now coached the Dragons for 28 wins from 63 matches – a winning percentage of 44 per cent. That has dropped to 39 per cent this season. While Mary is a favourite son of the Dragon/Steelers faithful, they demand results and he isn’t getting them.

Have they improved on 2015?

In 2015 the Dragons scraped into the eight and lost by one point to the Bulldogs. This season they have been out of all but mathematical contention since Round 24. So no, they haven’t improved.

Have they had injury issues?

Yes. Jack De Belin, Josh Dugan, Tim Lafai, Kurt Mann, Mitch Rein and Joel Thompson have all spent time in rehab this year.

Did they lose any good players?

Trent Merrin. Why the Dragons ever let him go I will never know. He is a superb player and I’d have him in any 17 I picked.

Have they had scandals?

Yes. Tim Lafai and Siliva Havili were involved in some unpleasantness in Wollongong.

Have they had offensive issues?

The Dragons completely ineffective attack has haunted them for at least four seasons. The last two have been particularly bad. They barely average over two tries a game. While their defence is actually pretty good, it is hard to successfully defend paltry scores.

Benji Marshall, Gareth Widdop and Josh McCrone in the halves barely have enough try assists to rub together, and for all Josh Dugan’s high average metres and tackle breaks, he has the least tries, try assists and line break assists of any of the NRL’s regular custodians.

Have they had defensive issues?

The Dragons concede just over the NRL average tries in 2016 with 3.8 a match and their defensive stats on the whole are pretty reasonable. There is the notable exception of metres conceded where they are second worst with 1490 a match on average.

Are the fans calling for the coaches head?

Yes. However, they’ve also been calling for CEO Peter Doust’s head for as long as I can remember and he’s still there. My gut tells me that Mary won’t be so hard to shift.

Verdict: In serious trouble

Paul McGregor may well be cut in the postseason review.

Andrew McFadden – The New Zealand Warriors

How McFadden has lasted this deep into the season is a mystery to me. The Warriors have been the equal most sack happy club in the NRL era along with the Rabbitohs. Their late season renaissance seemed to give the Canberra junior a stay of execution. However, their capitulation at home to an understrength Wests Tigers has almost certainly sealed his fate.

Have they improved on 2015?

Would you believe that they have? The Warriors only won nine matches in 2015. This season they’ve already won ten. They have slightly improved in attack and defence.

Have they had injury issues?

Losing star signing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck so early in the season was a big blow.

Did they lose any good players?

Konrad Hurrell departed during the season. Chad Townshend and Nathan Friend were also losses.

Have they had scandals?

No. The Warriors season has been fairly scandal free.

Have they had offensive issues?

You betcha. For a side bristling with attacking prowess their attack stats are a whole lot of mediocre, with the notable exception of line breaks in which they lead the NRL. Notably not tries scored though.

Have they had defensive issues?

Again, their defensive stats are as distinctive as blanc mange. The only stats that stand out are that they conceded the third fewest metres per match. However, that’s offset by conceding the third most tries.

Are the fans calling for the coaches head?

Yes. McFadden has coached the Warriors to 29 wins from 66 matches, just 44 per cent win ratio. This will be the fifth straight year that the New Zealand side will miss the finals.

Verdict: Dead coach walking

I expect McFadden to be sacked shortly after the Warriors' Mad Monday event.

Jason Taylor – The Wests Tigers

Taylor is now at the end of his second season in charge of the Wests Tigers. He has 19 wins from 47 games, a winning percentage of just 40 per cent.

Have they improved on 2015?

Their 15th place finish in 2015 will be no worse than 10th this season. However, their for and against is almost identical to last year.

Have they had injury issues?

The injury to James Tedesco is widely thought to have ended any real chance the joint venture had. Matt Ballin has barely played a game.

Did they lose any good players?

Only Martin Tapau who left in the off season to go to Manly.

Have they had scandals?

None bigger than the dropping of Robbie Farah. Coach Jason Taylor has staked his coaching career on Robbie Farah being no good for the team. Taylor’s side has won four from seven since Farah was relegated to the reggies. The protests seemed to have died right down.

Have they had offensive issues?

The Wests Tigers go forward is the third worst in the NRL this season. However, the rest of their attacking stats are slightly better than average.

Have they had defensive issues?

It is in defence that you really find the Wests Tigers issues. They are fourth for most missed tackles, second for line breaks conceded, fourth for metres conceded and second for tries conceded. They owe their high ladder position to their ability to outscore sides.

Are the fans calling for the coaches head?

Some were after Farah was dropped. However, all may be forgiven if the joint venture makes the finals.

Verdict: Relatively safe

If the board stood by him during the Farah dropping it would strange to sack him now.

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