FRESH OUT OF EX­CUSES

In­juries and youth can’t ex­plain the star-stud­ded War­riors’ aw­ful sea­son

Rugby League Week - - Rlw 2016 Annual - BY TONY ADAMS

AN­DREW McFAD­DEN AD­MITS THE WAR­RIORS found out a lot about them­selves when the go­ing got tough this year – and it wasn’t pretty. With four rounds left, the War­riors were well placed to make the fi­nals, with three of their fi­nal four matches at home, and most against op­po­nents with noth­ing to play for. But the Auck­land boys folded like a cheap tent, los­ing all four to fin­ish out of the fi­nals once again. After los­ing their last eight games the pre­vi­ous sea­son, it was a clear sign that McFad­den’s team lacked that some­thing spe­cial to be able to pro­duce the goods un­der pres­sure.

“It was prob­a­bly our best chance to make the fi­nals in my time at the club and we blew it,” McFad­den ad­mits. “In times of ad­ver­sity, you find out about peo­ple and we found out we weren’t up to it, sadly.

“We learned some hard lessons about re­silience in that last month of the sea­son.

“At the busi­ness end of the sea­son, the good teams go up a gear. You have to be able to go up with them – clearly, we couldn’t.

“We let our­selves down after a good patch in the mid­dle of the sea­son when we put to­gether 10 pretty good games to get our­selves in a po­si­tion to make the fi­nals after a poor start.

“Our com­ple­tion rate was 80 per cent for a while, which is what you’re look­ing for. By the end of the year that had dropped to around 60 per cent and that just killed us.

“Last year we had some ex­cuses with in­jury and hav­ing to play young kids out of po­si­tion.

“This year we didn’t have those ex­cuses . . . we just didn’t rise to the oc­ca­sion when it mat­tered.”

The War­riors’ fall from grace cost McFad­den his job for next sea­son but in a ground-break­ing move by the club, he’ll stay on as as­sis­tant to in­com­ing coach Stephen Kear­ney.

“It’s a tough busi­ness but I’m com­fort­able with my fu­ture and my role at the club,” he says.

“I’ve spo­ken to Stephen and I’m con­fi­dent we can work well to­gether.”

McFad­den be­lieves the War­riors have the ba­sis of a solid fi­nals chal­lenge for 2017 after years in the wilder­ness.

“This year we had a lot of player turnover and it took us a while to find our feet,” he says. “Next sea­son we’ll have a very sim­i­lar team to this year but they’ll be more ex­pe­ri­enced and hope­fully han­dle the hard times bet­ter.

“I was re­ally pleased with our sec­ond-year play­ers – guys like Solomone Kata, Sam Lisone and Albert Vete han­dled them­selves well.

“We also got to see a lot of David Fusi­tua, fi­nally, after some bad in­juries in re­cent years, and he con­firmed what a spe­cial tal­ent he is.”

Mas­sive things were ex­pected of the War­riors after the sign­ing of su­per­stars Roger Tuiv­asa-Sheck and Is­sac Luke over the sum­mer. But Tuiv­asa-Sheck suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury just when he looked to be find­ing his feet in Auck­land and Luke was a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment.

“Roger’s loss hurt us with­out doubt and we missed him,” says McFad­den [left].

“As for Is­sac, he didn’t come to us in the best shape and started slowly. Then he suf­fered a knee in­jury at a key stage of the sea­son. But he fin­ished the year strongly and I was happy with that – I can see him be­ing a key man for us next year.”

Com­ing back from a badly bro­ken an­kle that cut short his 2015 sea­son, Shaun John­son played ev­ery game, but if any­thing the team re­lied too heav­ily on his bril­liance to get them out of tough games.

The War­riors had sta­bil­ity in their line-up – 10 play­ers played 20 games or more – but look­ing back, that may have been a bad thing.

McFad­den was too tol­er­ant with play­ers who failed to pro­duce the goods, se­lect­ing them again and again on rep­u­ta­tion at times when the crit­ics were say­ing the team needed a shake-up.

“Hind­sight is a won­der­ful thing but I’m com­fort­able with the de­ci­sions I made,” McFad­den coun­ters.

“At the end of the day, we just couldn’t come up with the goods when it mat­tered most and we all have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that and step up next year.”

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