THE BIG ISSUE: #27

By STEVE MASCORD

IT’S easy to call for the head of the head coach.

For 100 years, people have been trying to get coaches sacked for poorly performing years and right now, Bill Harrigan, Stuart Raper and – to a slightly lesser extent – Tim Sheens are in the firing line.

In many case, poor performances may not be the fault of the coach. But he’s the bloke in charge, so he has to cop the blame. Governments get ousted when times are tough – even if they are doing the best anyone could for the city, state or country they preside over.

But none of us – unless you work under these three fellas or are friends with those who do – really knows what happens behind closed doors and why their respective teams, Wests Tigers and the refs, are losing.

In the case of footy clubs, we’ve seen plenty of coaches get the flick in recent years only for their replacement to fair worse. The faction trying to get rid of Sheens should be convinced that won’t happen before they punt him.

We have a process now that works like this: losing team – coach sacked. But the process should really be: losing team, coach sacked, team still loses, board sacked.

Unfortunately there are mechanisms in place which save board from this fate. If our clubs were run in a truly democatic fashion, that’s what would happen.

In the case of the NRL, there is a full beaurocracy that should be able to get to the bottom of what is going wrong with the “merry whistle-blowers”, as Mike Stephenson calls them. They’re not so merry right now.

We already had a coup attempt against Harrigan earlier this year – so that should throw up all sort of information about what is going on in the match officials’ ranks. There should be people willing to talk. Maybe we need to appoint someone whose sole job it is to sort the mess out, like Brian Canavan did for the Blues.

The refereeing administration has tried having former refs in charge. They’ve tried having former coaches in charge. Now we’ve got one of each! Still, it’s been a poor year.

Fans simply won’t tolerate the status quo remaining over the offseason. We don’t know who is to blame but we are paying the wages of those at League Central whose job it is to find out.

By the way, there is going to be a fans symposium at Old Trafford to kick off the next Super League season. Would you go to one if it was held here?

 

TOMORROW night, the eighth Immortal is named. I’d almost forgotten that in one of the first Big Issues of the season, I promised to tell you who I thought should get the nod.

I wasn’t on the voting panel – I’ve really only been at League Week for five minutes in comparison to those who were and anyway, I really don’t like judging stuff anyway.  Just doing the player ratings each week in this journal gives me heart palpitations.

To make this interesting, I thought I would count down the top four candidates in my mind – including those who didn’t even make the shortlist.

4. PETER STERLING: In my 25-years covering the game, I really only saw three players who could completely control the flow and outcome of a game. There were others who would inject themselves at the right time and change a result, sure. But there were three who had the air of a puppeteer, for the whole 80 minutes. One was Wally Lewis, who is already an Immortal. Another is Peter Sterling, who didn’t play as many Tests as he could have because of the number of other great halfbacks at the time;

3. MAL MENINGA: Mal will be an Immortal eventually, in my opinion. It’s just a case of when. He is the only player to go on four Kangaroo Tours, he retired with the most points and most appearances for Australia and was a colossus of State Of Origin. Again, to watch him play was to watch someone on a level above those around him – a fact records don’t accurately reflect;

2. BRIAN BEVAN: This fellow scored 796 tries between 1942 and 1964. Need I say more? On occasions he ran around entire teams – some players twice – to get them. Because Bevan played most of his career in England, he is often overlooked. He scored 100 hat-tricks and twice posted seven tries in a game! The whole Immortals concept would be richer for his inclusion;

1. ANDREW JOHNS: The reason the Immortals was conceived as a post-war concept is because they wanted the judges to have seen all the candidates play. Using that criteria, I have to go for Johns because he is the best player I ever saw. Here is someone who tackled big forwards head on, laide on tries for others, scored them himself, kicked goals, kicked tactically and saw things no-one else could. Johns admitted taking recreational drugs but he did not cheat. He took performance-reducing substances but trained long hours after his team-mates had gone home. I respect the older judges who disapprove of some of his actions. But he wasn’t Milli Vanilli. There was no miming involved for Joey. He did it all himself.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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