It’s widely expected, that by the time you read this, Andrew McFadden will have been removed from his post as coach of the New Zealand Warriors, to be replaced by Stephen Kearney.
McFadden, who was under immense pressure all season, looks like he will be the one to take the fall for yet another year of frustration for fans across the Tasman.
Unfortunately, 2016’s results summed up the supremely talented yet horribly inconsistent Warriors to perfection.
On their day, they were again one of the NRL’s best and certainly most exciting teams. Once again, unfortunately, those days were few and too far in between.
The Warriors squad is one rich with talent. To be honest it’s probably the envy of at least 10 NRL sides.
Shaun Johnson is arguably the most destructive playmaker in the NRL, capable of tearing any side to shreds. At times in 2016, the game seemed all too easy for the enigmatic half.
If he could produce those match-winning efforts with anywhere near the consistency of a Thurston or Cronk, the Warriors would be premiership favourites.
Unfortunately, and there is that word again Warriors fans, he’s yet to unlock the key to that level of consistency.
Issac Luke, another genuine NRL superstar, is a player with the talent and ability to lead his side toward an NRL premiership. He’s also a player who frustrates almost as much as he delights.
McFadden’s inability to solve the consistency equation within his two most exciting attacking weapons probably went a long way to sealing his fate. As the coach, it is his task to get the best out of his players week-to-week.
Although a season-ending injury to superstar recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in April was a bitter blow, every team in the NRL has dealt with injury in 2016. The Storm lost Billy Slater in round one yet are into a Grand Final qualifier. The Titans lost their number one half in the pre-season yet still played in September.
Somewhat ironically, the most consistent part of the Warriors season was the head-scratching selection decisions made by the man in charge.
With all due respect to Jono Wright and Blake Ayshford, both signings looked a little curious given the plethora of talent on the books in Auckland.
David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo and Henare Wells are three exciting talents I expected to see play far more in 2016 than they did. Not to mention the fact wrecking ball Konrad Hurrell hardly saw any game-time for the Warriors and left to the Gold Coast to find playing time.
That’s without trying to explain the horror use, or non-use, or Tuimoala Lolohea throughout the season.
Constant shifts of position, including stints coming off the bench, to play ridiculously low minutes, looked to really dent the confidence of a player who almost won the 2015 rookie of the year award despite playing far less than eventual winner Jack Bird.
It would be ridiculous to say playing Ayshford and Wright cost the Warriors a finals spot in 2016, but unless there was an underlying issue that has not been disclosed, I can’t see how the likes of Lolohea and Fusitu’a were not key figures this season.
Konrad Hurrell’s form since debuting for the Titans has Warriors fans throwing their hands up in disbelief. He and Kata were one of the most damaging centre pairings across the competition.
Although Hurrell’s attitude to training and fitness was questioned and linked to the move, he certainly seems to apply himself on the Gold Coast.
Perhaps McFadden’s inability to motivate a player who looks as though he’ll be a key figure at the Titans for the next few seasons, says it all.
The Warriors, who are expected to announce the signing of Kieran Foran in the coming days, have a squad capable of lifting their maiden NRL title next season.
In Kearney, they have a coach who oversaw the New Zealand national side’s toppling of one of the best Kangaroos sides of all time, consistently.
If Kearney can unlock the key to ensuring the Warriors play at a high level with any great consistency, the sky is truly the limit at Mt Smart stadium.
Like many before him, ultimately McFadden was unable to oversee the delivery of consistently brilliant football, which cost him his job.