With all the speculation over Ivan Cleary’s future of late, is it affecting his side’s on-field performance?
A legitimate question, given their run of three losses on the trot, which has coincided with the recent speculation over Cleary’s future at the club and whether he will be coaching Penrith in 2012.
Surely, it cannot be helping the mindset of the playing staff.
Not knowing one’s future doesn’t do much for the headspace of a player. In their minds, if they suspect there may be a new coach on the way in, they can’t help but wonder if their future is secure.
It is only human nature, after all.
Before their current losing streak, the Warriors had been one of the form teams of the competition, with seven wins from eight matches.
Then, suddenly, that rich vein of form disappeared.
Some will argue that the appearance of rookie halfback, Shaun Johnson, has been the overriding issue with the unit’s poor for.
Cleary, it seems agrees as he has demoted Johnson to the interchange bench and brought back Brett Seymour in a raft of changes to the starting line-up for Sunday’s encounter with the Melbourne Storm.
Out with injury are Kevin Locke and Glen Fishiahi. In their place come Lance Hohaia and Bill Tupou. Captain, Simon Mannering, returns to the second row to bolster the mid field defence in the absence of Michael Luck, with Shaun Berrigan filling the vacant centre position.
And off for a break in the New South Wales Cup is Kristian Inu, who was at his erratic worst against North Queensland. Lewis Brown comes off the bench to take Inu’s position.
While some of the changes have been necessitated by injury, others seem to have a whiff of panic about them. Leaving aside Inu, who in all probability deserves a boot up the backside with a spell playing for the Auckland Vulcans. His kick out on the full from a restart was inexcusable and started the rot in the second half against the Cowboys.
Not as easy to comprehend is putting Johnson back to the bench. Sure, it could be argued that Seymour will provide a steady head under pressure and steer the team around the park better. But in reality Johnson did very little wrong in his three appearances. And it is hard to blame him for the run of losses.
Against the Roosters, on debut, there wasn’t a lot he could do in what were atrocious conditions with heavy rain for the entirety of the match. Given that, a new halves pairing of Johnson and James Maloney, the fact that the Warriors had the bye the previous week, it was always going to be tough.
For sixty minutes in their contest with Wests Tigers they did a perfectly fine job of dominating their foe. Johnson scored a try, his kicking game was good and his support play was top rate. If he clocked off after sixty minutes, then he was only one of seventeen.
And then there was his long range try in Townsville. What a sight to behold that was. Put simply, if he hadn’t run sixty metres to score what was one of the individual long range tries of the season, the Warriors would have been shut out of the match much sooner than what was to eventuate.
As for Mannering returning to the forwards, that may plug one perceived hole and open another. Luck is a huge loss to this side, but his replacement, Elijah Taylor, did a sterling job. Despite a job well done on the part of Taylor, Mannering may well be an even better bet.
Having said that, will any improvement from having the skipper back in the middle of the ruck outweigh any potential threat to a weakened backline defence? Proberly not.
They stand to lose more than they gain. A fine player Berrigan has been. To be fair, he’s still useful, but his defence is not of the quality of Mannering’s.
Along with this, and Johnson’s removal from the starting line-up, the Warriors may be taking a step backwards.