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Friday, June 04, 2004

Daniel Anderson's Reign at the Warriors 

I thought I'd do a summary of Daniel Anderson's reign at the Warriors, concentrating on this season in particular.

I Looked back at some of the pre-season writing on the NRL and how it would shape up on the field this year, and how the Warriors were looking going into the season. It was all about size and strength, and ball movement, and pace and tackling and effort and ... well all the usual stuff it seems except ... just more of it. Basically the whole "bigger, stronger, faster" thing all over again. I expect in 50 years the average player will weigh 150 kg's bench press double his own weight and be roughly 6 foot 9 with a PB of 10.1 seconds for the hundred metres.

Peter Jessup wrote:
...this season the small men will not be as easy to run over. They're getting bigger too. The best example is Warriors fullback Brent Webb, who is now barrel-chested and built like a forward from the waist up.

Parramatta coach Brian Smith, who commented after being out-muscled by the Warriors that "one monster goes off and another gorilla comes off the bench," made no secret of his plan for this season ... "We've overloaded with big people," he said. On the wings Eric Grothe, back from the Roosters, is 103kg. Wise Kativerata from Souths is 100kg. There are six props among their off-season buys.

The pattern is repeated at Manly, Souths and other clubs where the juniors coming through are bigger than ever.

The renowned Bulldogs hardman Billy Johnstone is training the North Queensland Cowboys, building strength and size, and their purchase of former Dogs lock Travis Norton as a five-eighth suggests they intend to play it up the middle.
So basically we have the Warriors, Souths, Manly, Parramatta and the Cowboys all specifically focused on thinking big for this season.

And where do these teams sit on the ladder after 12 weeks?
15th, 14th, 13th, 12th and 11th. Thats right, the bottom 5 spots.

So ladies and gentlemen there we have the answer to the age old question. Small is better after all.

In the week before the season started Jessup wrote:
[Anderson] has no worries the squad is up to a premiership win.

"We believe we have no weaknesses - flaws, yes, but outright weaknesses, no. I think we're good enough."

The plan this year would be as it has been - focus on their game, not the opposition's. He expected the level of competition to go up a notch. Teams were bigger across the board and most clubs had gone for more Polynesians. In that regard the Warriors remain a big step in front. The Bulldogs may have the game's biggest player in Willie Mason but he does not have the ball skills of Manu Vatuvei, the Warriors' "Lomu". Vatuvei is 189cm, 110kg and just turned 18, and still growing. He has speed, plays on the wing and is of Tongan descent. Very Lomu.

If the Warriors are not there at the end it will be due to mental frailty. There is no other excuse.
I also dredged up an article which had some quotes from Phil Gould (who I have in my top ten most hated people list). He left the Warriors out of his top eight predictions and prophetically wrote (as opposed to his usual biased bandwagon commentary):
"I just think they have missed their chance this time around when it comes to winning a premiership. "Everyone goes up and down over time and I don't think they are on the upswing. So if you are not improving where are you? "They have been so good in recent years and they will keep us entertained again in 2004. "But I believe another 18 months of building with youngsters and strategic purchases is necessary to have them placed for another assault on the crown."
However Gould was one of very few I imagine that could have forseen the carnage that has been the Warriors in the opening months. Andrew Jones picked them in the top four while Chris Anderson predicted they would be runners up. Also Centrebet had them listed as third favourites ($8.00) for the title behind the Panthers ($6.50) and Roosters ($4.50) and I dare say that most supporters on this side of the Tasman would have shared those views and perhaps gone a little further.

Now to move on to Anderson a little more specifically. He signed on to coach the Warriors in October 2000 after they had just finished a season where they had finished runners up for the wooden spoon with 8 wins, 2 draws and 16 losses.

This was said of him when he was signed:
Anderson [has been] identified as a future coaching star by former Manly Coach, Bob Fulton...

Eric Watson, Executive Chairman of Cullen Investments, majority owners of the New Zealand Warriors, expressed his delight in securing a coach of Anderson's abilities and class.

"Daniel has all the qualities needed to make the Warriors successful", says Watson. "He's extremely bright, he communicates well, he knows how to lead and motivate. He knows how to get players to think about their performance and the game. Above all, he is a professional coach with top credentials. As assistant coach with the Parramatta Eels, he played a significant role in the growth and success of the club. We're delighted to have him on board" said Watson.

Fulton meanwhile said "This gives Daniel the opportunity to prove himself at the highest possible level. He understands the game and understands the structure required to make the club successful". "He's a coach with a great future" said Brian Smith, head coach at Parramatta. "The club's current success is due in no small way to his efforts. He's extremely organised and very good at motivating players and getting them to work together better. The Warriors have made a very sound choice. While Anderson may not have the profile of some of his predecessors, he brings a real understanding of player development and is committed to working to attract quality juniors to the club. His strength is drawing out the abilities of rising stars of the future and honing their technical skills".
And for all intents and purposes that's how he shaped up at the Warriors.

This is a look at what happened statistically once he took over ...
2000: 13th, 8 wins, 2 draws, 16 losses, for 426 (16.4), against 662 (25.5)
then Anderson joins, signs Campion, Cleary and get's Lauittiti on a three year deal.

nb. These are regular season finishes and stats.
2001: 8th, 12 wins, 2 draws, 12 losses, for 638 (24.5), ag. 629 (24.2)
2002: 1st, 17 wins, 0 draws, 7 losses, for 688 (28.7), ag. 454 (18.9)
2003: 6th, 15 wins, 0 draws, 9 losses, for 545 (22.7), ag. 510 (21.3)
2004: 14th, 3 wins, 0 draws, 8 losses, for 198 (18.0), ag. 296 (26.9)

+ 12-56 loss to Parramatta in 2002
+ 36-20 win v Raiders, 16-10 win v Sharks, and 8-30 loss v Roosters in 2002
+ 48-22 win v Bulldogs, 17-16 win v Raiders, and 20-28 loss v Panthers in 2003

In the first three years he achieved 48 wins, 2 draws and 31 losses and in total 51 wins, 2 draws and 39 losses.

That was a nice steady turn around he achieved over his the first two years in charge and you couldn't fault him at all. He made two very valuable signings in Campion and Cleary and for a while had all his charges hitting their straps.

But then I thought (and thought this all along) he let things slip the year after making the grand final. Everybody was saying we were getting better, should have beaten the Panthers in the preliminary final etc etc but the writing was on the wall. We had no decent goal kicker, we didn't get the same go forward, and we were winning games narrowly. It was happening consistently, we would jump out to a small lead, miss shots at goal, the other team would only be down by 4 points instead of 6 or 8 etc and they would continue fighting. In 2002 we were simply putting them out of the game early on and then turning on the razzle dazzle. Remember all the showboating and post try celebrations in 2002? Well try remembering it from 2003 because there was none. The games were tight right to the end. We were scoring 6 points less a game in 2003 and conceding two and a half points more.

And unfortunately Anderson and co didn't focus enough on these problems in the off season. Remember we finished 6th in the regular season and made the final four after crushing an out of sorts Bulldog team and then pipping the Raiders by a point. We didn't deserve to be there. Perhaps those two wins served to actually hurt the team in the end as people thought the side was better than it really was in 2003. Being knocked out in the first week may have been a wake up call that they needed a big improvement rather than some minor tinkering in the break. Gould was right, they were a team on the way down not up.

Anderson was hoping and expecting that the senior players from the past few seasons would really step up and take charge but it seems that several of these guys are followers rather than leaders. Taking Campion out of the forward pack was a bit like taking the 4th gear out of a car. Their ability got them so far in each game but they were unable to cruise at racing speed throughout a match.

This season is pretty much wrecked but if they can snare a couple of hard-nosed experienced signings when the transfer window opens then perhaps, just perhaps they could work their way up towards the playoff fringes. But you can forget anything more from there.

Now it's all about 2005 and beyond.

But Anderson taught himself and everybody else some very valuable lessons about sport all the same. Continously look at what you haven't got and what you need, rather than what you have got and don't need. And always look to inject experience from outside.

Comments:
This is why I support the Panthers, and have since 1989. It's no soap opera.
 
yeah but how about all that soap dropping in the Panthers shower AYE?!
 
It's slippery and can't be helped....
 
2 things I should add:

1. The Warriors never looked like beating the Panthers in that preliminary final last year.

2. Phil Gould is great (can you guess why?)
 

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