I was having a think about all the coaching changes that happened this year and now, 8 rounds into the season, what the impact of that has been.
The two clubs that caused the coaching merry-go-round are Broncos and Penrith. Obviously Broncos wanted to out Bennett and Penrith made an informal approach to Cleary; Tigers and Rabbits would have kept their coaches if they were permitted. Everything else follows on from there.
Seibold at Broncos and Cleary at Panthers are now heading what are unequivocally two of the biggest organisations in the NRL. Both teams are backed by largely successful financial entities and draw from the two biggest individual junior development areas in Australia. There’s no off-field reason for these clubs not to perform, other than mismanagement and general failure to convert off-field advantages into on-field performances.
What is interesting to me is that we can all see that Penrith and Broncos are performing poorly, with both sides 2 wins and 6 losses. Both sides have poor points differentials. The sides finished 5th and 6th respectively in 2018.
Now the season isn’t over yet, but the signs are not good for these clubs. They have specifically head-hunted 2 well-respected coaches to increase an already moderately successful football program, and the results are bad. And this isn’t some whim or desperation play, this is two highly professional, talented and well-staffed organisations that have made a tactical decision that is currently backfiring in a big way.
In contrast, Tigers and Manly were forced to change their coach and the outcomes are moderate to good. Tigers are where they always are - 9th, and Manly have played themselves into 6th with a good month of footy. Both clubs are only modestly financial, both clubs are also fielding a fairly average roster with insignificant depth. But both clubs are frankly doing ok despite their coaches leaving under difficult circumstances.
And fair respect to Des Hasler, maligned in many corners despite an overall stellar track record, getting his Manly outfit to lift in games and take out some reasonable opposition (Rabbits, Raiders).
Souths, another club to change coaches, aren’t really in the same boat. They finished 3rd in 2018, added the most experienced coach in the game and are still where they were, which isn’t entirely surprising. Sharkies also were forced to change coach and are slightly worse off than 2018 (same win rate as Tigers).
It therefore makes me wonder, in appropriate context, of the expectations of Tigers fans when it comes to season 2019. I don’t make any excuses for anything, I just look at what Tigers have and what’s realistic to expect from the team. There’s another thread about having a realistic think about our roster.
But in terms of coach, we have a decently-credentialled coach who has come in at extreme short notice, with only 1 roster change that he personally approved, and been asked to take that side to the finals. Until Round 8, Tigers were indeed within the Top 8. Some performances have been good, some not so good, only 1 horrid result so far. Some players have improved in 2019 and some have not. Mixed bag, typical Tigers and realistically what you’d expect from the roster we have.
But the context - other clubs with far better off-field capacity than us, with clearly superior rosters, have head-hunted their choice of coach and now wallow beneath us on the table. Everyone knows rugby league is not just about money and rosters, it’s about consistency, belief, heart, stability.
Tigers have not had the same coach for more than 2 seasons since 2012. That means the coach has been gone in less than the timeframe of an average 3-year NRL contract. That alone cannot help team performance. And frankly, until 2017 we were purchasing bargain-bin coaches.
It would therefore be reasonable to expect Tigers to be a middle-ground team again in 2019. It would be reasonable to see them improve in some ways but not all ways. It would be reasonable to expect that the coach will want to mould the roster and may ultimately notdecide on a playing style that suits all incumbents. It’s reasonable to look at the failures of Broncos and Penrith and see that a coaching change alone is no predictor of success.
People complain about “always next year”, but we have to have a coach with some long-term stability before expecting proper results. Tim Sheens jagged a result in 2005, but the terrific sides of 2010-2011 only happened because of the team he cultivated 2008-2009 - teams mostly unrelated to the premiership side, that were on the cusp of finals for a few seasons but didn’t quite click until 2010.
Every other club that does anything good for any period of time has 1 thing in common, that they have stable coaching.