The players have spoken . . .
Player power in top sport has been very much in evidence lately.
In England, star cricketer Kevin Pietersen tried to wield a bit of his own player power and ended up dropped from the test team and overlooked for the World Cup Twenty20 squad.
In New Zealand, Brian McClennan was dumped as Warriors rugby league coach after he apparently ‘‘ lost the dressing room’’ – the players wanted him out of there. Player power is a tricky thing. For one thing, it’s the players, not the coach, who bring fans through the turnstiles. So you don’t get rid of your big-name players on a whim.
And it’s far easier, and cheaper, to sack one coach than half a dozen under-performing players. English football clubs have long followed that policy.
Pietersen, who always appears a bit of a malcontent in the England set-up, sent some extremely inflammatory text messages to his South African opponents during the second test at Headingley last month.
The odd thing is, they weren’t critical of the South Africans, but of his own captain, Andrew Strauss, and coach, Andy Flower.
Shortly after, he intimated that he might retire from all international cricket.
That managed to divert attention away from the England team on to him.
Then he released on YouTube an interview he organised, in which he announced he now loved international cricket and his team- mates, and wanted to resume playing for England in all forms of the game.
Despite his mea culpa, Pietersen remained on the outer.
He was dropped for the crucial third test (having scored 149 in the second) and overlooked for the Twenty20 team (despite starring in the last Twenty20 World Cup, two years ago).
So player power didn’t work with Pietersen, who was put firmly back in his box and is now faced with grovelling and begging to return to the England team.
If only New Zealand sports administrators were as strong as those running the England cricket team.
We got a look at how things often stand in New Zealand sport when the Black Caps toured the West Indies in 1996.
Adam Parore and Chris Cairns got the huff with coach Glenn Turner and walked out on the tour – a lovely way to treat your team-mates.
New Zealand Cricket chief executive Chris Doig labelled them miscreants.
The result? Turner was sacked and Parore and Cairns returned to the New Zealand team, no questions asked.
I have a suspicion something similar has happened at the Warriors.
In 2011 the Warriors played outstandingly and reached the NRL grand final.
Throughout 2012, several Warriors players have pranced about as if they were still living on the glory of last year’s campaign.
I felt sorry for coach McClennan, in his first year in the job, trying to get his players’ minds on the job.
The Warriors have had some miserable results, so just before the end of the season, McClennan has been sacked. Such is the lot of the coach. Little thought of pointing the finger at players who have been unprofessional and inept, especially on defence; little scrutiny of McClennan’s assistant coaches and nothing about the club administration.
Apparently the Warriors’ woeful results in 2012 were all the result of one bloke, sitting in the grandstand.
McClennan is one of the top coaches in world rugby league, as he showed during his successes with the Mt Albert Lions, the Kiwis and the Leeds Rhinos.
Did he suddenly turn into a dud, or was there more to it?
It was simplistic to simply sack him, saying he had ‘‘lost the dressing room’’.
Of course players, given a choice between admitting they’ve played shockingly all year, or blaming the coach, will point the finger at the coach.
But it was shallow to think the problems could be solved simply by removing McClennan.
Player power certainly exists at the Warriors. Let’s see if they end up any better off.