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Five things the new Warriors owners should do

Chris Rattue, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thursday, 3 May 2018, 3:22PM
"Keep Cameron George as the chief executive" (Photo \ NZ Herald)
"Keep Cameron George as the chief executive" (Photo \ NZ Herald)

A memo to the Auckland Rugby League and Autex Industries who have just bought the NRL Warriors from Eric Watson.

1) Be realistic about what is needed to create great teams. All the talk from the ARL about creating pathways for local players into the Warriors is potentially concerning.

The Warriors operate in an NRL market, one in which many of the best players and all of the best competitions are across the ditch and always will be. Auckland can't produce a title-chasing team out of its own ranks, and why even try? Even Brisbane has given up on that concept and the best run club in NRL history, Melbourne, has an entirely imported team out of necessity.

The very best talent from this city and country, including those developed by the Warriors, will always be lured away at times. It's called the free market, which plays by its own rules.

In turn, the Warriors must always be on the lookout for great players and prospects from Australia and even England. Aussies like Micheal Luck, Kevin Campion, James Maloney, Nathan Fien, Brent Webb and Steve Price have added a huge amount to the club.

Imagine what mighty England forward Sam Burgess could have done for the Warriors. Returning Kiwis schooled across the Tasman — Ruben Wiki, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris — have been essential.

Many iconic Australian club players — from brilliant Cowboys back Johnathan Thurston to Sharks enforcer Paul Gallen — had journeys through other clubs. Warriors club legend Simon Mannering was a rugby player from Nelson. The rule is, you never know where the great first graders might spring from.

2) This subject sticks out like a sore pinky: White blokes continue to rule absolutely when it comes to the Warriors' ownership and administration. This does not reflect the make-up of the game or the lead the Warriors should take.

As former Kiwi netball boss Raelene Castle said about women in league before she headed to the Canterbury Bulldogs, why would a sport appear to ignore half of its audience? Hawaiian Richard Fale's Tonga-linked bid to buy the Warriors was a wake-up call because it reflected Polynesian business confidence and pride, something which should be regarded as the norm.

It is time for the Warriors to seriously consider this subject, and what they are going to do about it. Anyone who believes that only white men can run anything should take a good hard look at the history of the Warriors and the Blues.

3) Make a clear statement about the stadium situation.

To his credit, former chief executive and chairman Jim Doyle was unequivocal about this — he wanted a new waterfront stadium. It would simply be good to know what the Auckland Rugby League and Autex Industries think on this subject, even though major stadium changes in Auckland have hit a big road block.

If they are happy at Mt Smart, so be it. Do they intend taking games on the road, or (please no) make visits to Eden Park? The fans, city and sports community need to know what their vision and preferences are.

4) Keep Cameron George as the chief executive — this looks like a gimme. Fairly early days, but he is shaping as a gem. But the new owners need to stay out of making public comments around coaching appointments and performances. It is not their domain.

5) Move heaven and earth to get bigger crowds to Mt Smart Stadium.

Crowd numbers are far too reliant on team performance. But team performance is heavily reliant on crowd numbers. League is a gladiatorial sport in which a great atmosphere not only improves the game, but should favour the home side. Mt Smart is not the fortress it could be.


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