“THERE is a tendency,” says Sydney Roosters chief executive Steve Noyce, “to get a false sense of security from the idea that once you have made the tough decisions regarding the coach, it’s like waving a magic wand and it will fix everything.”
It’s not easy for Noyce to rake over the coals of 2012. Just eight wins, lots of penalties (against, of course) and errors, a couple of heart breaking defeats on the bell and a shocking 50-12 flogging by North Queensland in Darwin.
Any season that ends with a coach leaving early is not a good one.
“There are some positives off the field but professional sport is about on the field, it’s about winning,” says Noyce. “If you don’t make the finals, then it hasn’t been a successful year.
“Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was a deserving winner of the Jack Gibson Medal – he has really improved this year. There’s Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tautau Maga and Daniel Tupou at the end of the year. There’s the Toyota Cup side making the preliminary final and Newtown the grand final.
“But we can’t continue to rest on the fact that the future looks bright and our players are young. It’s time to shut up and get the job done.”
Prop Martin Kennedy’s season is another one of the year’s positives, culminating in his selection for the Australian train-on squad. But he speaks bluntly and constructively about the disappointments of the season.
“Fans see losses like the ones against the Dragons and the Rabbitohs as demoralising – and players are exactly the same,” he says. “To be up there among the top teams early in the season and then losing games by such small margins, so late, is shattering.
“But the flipside of all that is that if we were two or three per cent better in those matches, we’d have been in the final eight and from there, anything can happen.
“That’s something for us to take into the pre-season and into next year.”
Kennedy says there are important things for supporters to understand about the mountainous penalty counts. ]
“The hardest thing for someone to understand who doesn’t play football is how, when you are under the pump out on the field, you try to make up for it by doing things you wouldn’t normally do,” he explains.
“So holding on for five or 10 more seconds in the tackle seems the same as running harder. If you can do something that’s a little bit outside the rules to help your team, you want to do it to try and help your team-mates out.
“We’re not trying to give away penalties or lose the game but that’s what ends up happening.
“It’s something we are really going to have to discuss in the pre-season because doing that doesn’t work. The referees are so much in the money now that you get caught every time. We have to make sure we don’t do things outside the rules when we’re under pressure.”
Kennedy says the Roosters’ players feel terrible about Smith’s departure. “I have really struggled with it, expecially now that so many of his assistants are going too,” he says. “Even when Braith (Anasta) announced he was leaving, that was bad. He had been here for so long and I really took it hard.
“We all know it’s easier to move on the coach than it is to move 17 under-performing players. It cut us deep and will drive us next season.”
Kennedy has no trouble identifying which defeat stung the most. “Yes, up in Darwin was definitely a lowlight to the season,” he said. “But as a Roosters fan growing up, you never want to lose to Souths.
“Losing to Souths – you don’t want that, whether it’s by one point or 30. So I would say that was the worst.”
Noyce said it is down to individuals to assess how they contributed to the downfall of Smith, who he described as “a thoroughly decent human being”.
“I didn’t see Brian dropping balls, missing tackles or – at my level – making bad buisiess decisions,” he said.
“Hopefully it can be a catalyst for people to look at whether they took a short cut here, didn’t work hard enough there, didn’t engage with the group enough, whatever. If that happens, something positive will come from it.”
But thinking a change of coach will bring a change of fortune? “If you think that,” says Noyce, “you’re destined to fail.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK