• Warriors coach Stephen Kearney speaks during a press conference following the Round 4 game between the Penrith Panthers and the Warriors (Image/Dan Himbrechts) (AAP)Source: AAP
OPINION: Over the Black Dot's Timanha Tahu wraps up all the notable news in rugby league this week including the challenges ahead for the Warriors, *that* Sivo versus Teddy moment, and improving defensive techniques in the game.
By
Timana Tahu, Presented by
Over The Black Dot

26 Jun 2020 - 3:44 PM  UPDATED 26 Jun 2020 - 3:44 PM

Warriors fire coach Steven Kearney

The firing of New Zealand Warriors coach Stephen Kearney just after the 6th Round of the season, has been quite a shock to many, including myself and essentially turned the Warriors season upside down, especially for the players.

They’ve been playing some good football, with some disappointing games, but considering that the Warriors team has been in the country for nine weeks due to preparations for Covid-19, it’s a long time away from family and loved ones, and to have their coach and leader taken away from them as well at this time is tough, and I feel for them. The respect they have for him as a coach was evident in the Haka that they performed for him.

The players and coaching staff have all expressed that they are upset and there’s also been a bit of an uproar from older players, including rugby legend Sir John Kirwan. He has slammed the Warriors about this move, saying that they have "lost a fan".

In hiring Kearney, the Warriors club mentioned that being a Maori man on top of being a successful rugby player himself, was an important aspect for their team and the relationship to the Maori and Pacifica players. It was a great move, I felt at the time. But the question now is, where to from here?

The Warriors are using the Redcliffe Dolphins as a feeder club now, and so it feels like the direction they're going in is looking more into Aussie talent over Kiwi talent. There’s also a few of the coaches from Australia that are in line for the job. In my opinion, those types of coaches can fit easily into an Australian system, but when you're going to New Zealand, there's got to be a different approach.

There's got to be an understanding of players, understanding of culture, and especially understanding of religion as well. I feel like those are the biggest things that a coach needs to understand when they're going over there to get the best out of the players.

I see the club's point of view, how they weren't getting results that they wanted to, there was some consistency lacking, and the board were probably worried about that more than anything else, but for the club and players it’s a lot to take in right now.

Union is a strong hold in New Zealand, but the rugby league talent is also enormous and you can see that reflected in some of the top talent. Considering the amount of Maori and Pasifika players, I think there is a big culture change coming at the end of the season. For now, the club has a hard decision ahead of it.

Roosters v Parramatta

Last round's Roosters vs Parramatta game lived up to its hype and what I spoke about in last week's article summed it up.

The key positions in that team and leaders in that team did not perform to what I was expecting. Especially, in light of everyone talking about Parramatta winning their first grand final since the 80's. I still feel like they've got a long way to go.

You can have the younger side of the team, and everyone loves the young side, but experience is key. And the experienced players on that night were the ones that were shining.

 

Probably one of the biggest highlights in the game was Maika Sivo running over James Tedesco. The commentators were out of their chairs and it was an awesome moment, especially if you're promoting rugby league around the world. People love high contact sports and love the big hits. But my focus is more on James Tedesco getting knocked out.

Concussions are still rising in today's game, and I feel like the tackle techniques need to be changed.

I started doing research on tackle technique in 2005. I began looking at different angles, different tackle techniques because I was getting concussed from the textbook tackles. So I studied it, trained on it, and then executed it out on a professional playing field. And I was getting a lot of success. So the next step was getting medical and scientific data to back these results up, and for the last few years I’ve been working closely with the NRL and Newcastle University with Dr. Andrew Gardner, a neurologist and Susie Edwards, a science bio-mechanic.

We still need to do more study and gather more data, but so far we’ve established some really good results on changing and tweaking the tackle technique and comparing the new style to the old style.

It’s complex, as in today's game the size difference of players is quite big. For example, Sivo's a winger, but he's 105 kilos. And he's running at full steam into a fullback who may be sitting at 90 kilos. Doing a textbook tackle in a situation like that is high risk.

As we get more data, hopefully we can look at the tackle technique and try and tweak it a little bit more to where it's going to be safe. Not only for NRL level athletes, but for juniors, and for women that are playing in the lower grades as well.

We are due to present our initial findings hopefully next year to the International Olympic Committee, and also try and present these to the NRL, to world rugby, and then go from there. At the moment it feels like we're on the right path.

Timana Tahu: Black Lives Matter, crowds return and Parramatta take on the Roosters
Black Lives Matter protests, fans allowed back in to stadiums and Sydney Roosters vs Parramatta Eels in Round 6.