Several weeks ago I speculated that the NRL
coaches musical chairs would be a serious distraction during the coming season.

At the weekend that became even more certain
with the news the Penrith Panthers coach, John Lang, won’t be with the club in
2007, and that that he is to be replaced by the current Canberra Raiders coach,
Matthew Elliott.

As a result, one quarter of the NRL coaches
in the 2006 season premiership will not be with their current clubs in 2007,
and the 2006 season is still almost three weeks away!

Two of the four – Elliott and the Knights
Michael Hagan – will be with different clubs next year, while the Eels Brian
Smith, and now the Panthers John Lang, might be out of a job come 2007.

The respected Sydney Morning Herald writer
(and former first grade coach), Roy Masters, took up my concerns last Friday when he described the coaching fiasco as a recipe for anarchy and destabilising
the code – and that was before Penrith joined the sorry saga over the weekend.

The pressure being put on the coaches who have
been punted for 2007, and are currently without another club to go to, will be
bad enough – but nothing compared to what confronts Michael Hagan (who joins
the Eels next season) and Elliott who will be moving from the Raiders to the
Panthers.

As Masters has pointed out, it is the
boards – or the CEOs – of the clubs
that have punted their coaches a year in advance that have placed appalling
pressure on the incumbents, and the incoming. You have to seriously ask why?

One suggestion is that the salary cap, and
the post-Super League period, has levelled out the competition putting more
pressure than ever on coaches to perform – and on administrators to use them as
scapegoats, in advance.

Another is that players are not good
blame-takers. When things go wrong on the field, blame the coach. With administrators and players both
blaming the coaches (even in advance) it is probably little wonder that this
saga has arrived.
But it does not make it any more defensible.

Perhaps Betfair and other sports betting
agencies will this week frame a market on which of the four coaches who won’t
be at their current club in 2007 will be the first to resign, or be sacked,
during 2006.

Peter Fray

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