With the Warriors out of the NRL finals race the big talking point on this side of the Tasman is who will succeed Brian McClennan as head honcho of the New Zealand-based franchise?
The club has declared it is pursuing a 'supercoach' and of the current crop of NRL coaches only the four names of Craig Bellamy, Des Hasler, Wayne Bennett, and Tim Sheens can genuinely lay claim to such a title.
Bellamy and Sheens seem the most likely out of the four long-odd prospects, while there is more chance of Santa Claus taking the helm at Mt Smart before either Hasler or Bennett are sighted in Warriors colours.
Hasler still resides on Sydney's northern beaches and only left his beloved Manly for a huge offer from the Dogs and has a quality squad under him which might yet earn him another title in 2012. It is almost beyond comprehension that he would leave Canterbury one year into his tenure when everything there is on his terms and in his favour.
Similarly, Bennett is one-year into a four year term with the Knights and it is difficult to see him wanting to enhance his recently acquired image as a dollar-chasing coaching mercenary. A close relationship with Stephen Kearney raises some hopes of him taking the head job, but a lot of cards would need to fall the Warriors way to see that eventuate.
Sheens offers plenty of experience and while his CV includes four titles, those periods of success are blighted by long runs of mediocrity, with just three finals appearances in the last 15 seasons. Sheens' sides have traditionally favoured an attacking style and it is the defensive side of the game that the Warriors require help with. Difficult to imagine the current Australian coach taking up residency in New Zealand but with his future at the Tigers under a cloud it remains a possibility.
Bellamy presents a tantalising prospect and although the Roosters are also chasing him there remain reasons for Warriors fans to dare to dream. With a year still to run on his contract at the Storm, 'Bellyache' is rumoured to be restless at the club he has been with since 2003 and the cash reserves of Eric Watson and Owen Glenn outweigh the spending capacity of the Bondi-based club. Bellamy is fond of developing young talent, of which the Warriors have plenty, and is said to 'enjoy a challenge' which he would certainly receive at Penrose.
Kearney again emerges as a possible lure, to reform the head coach and understudy pairing they enjoyed at Melbourne. Throw in the mix a third assistant possibility in David Kidwell, and Cooper Cronk's get-out clause if Bellamy exits the Storm, and it all sounds perfect if unrealistic.
Brian Smith, the four time NRL premiership runner-up and one-time Challenge Cup final loser has emerged as a contender following his axing from the Roosters. I would back Smith in a football manager role similar to that which John Hart fulfilled during Ivan Cleary's reign, but his supposed penchant for playing 'mind games' and ability to upset senior players at various clubs has me doubting he is the man to steady the Warriors ship as the new head coach.
Various other names have been floated but two dark horses have my backing in Michael Hagan and Mick Potter.
Potter is currently coaching the cash-strapped Bradford for nothing so would come at a fraction of the price of the other contenders. He has been likened to Ivan Cleary in his firm but measured demeanour and coaching style and has taken the struggling Catalan Dragons to a Challenge Cup title. If Potter is looking to break into the NRL ranks than the Warriors could be his ticket to ride.
Hagan has tasted premiership success with the Knights and took them to the finals four times in six years, while in 2007 in his first year in charge of the Eels he guided them to a preliminary final. He spent two years as head coach of Queensland and has worked as Mal Meninga's assistant since 2010. A smart and astute coach, the off-contract Hagan would make an ideal fall-back if the Bellamy dream fails to materialise.
With the Warriors eager to fill the post by the end of the month their options are further reduced. Tony Iro and Kearney both have claims to the role but neither meet the criteria outlined by the club publicly.
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