PETER STERLING: Facing the blowtorch

THE Parramatta club dropped the ball plenty of times over the weekend – and it wasn’t all confined to on the paddock.

A report that the club’s hierarchy were considering bringing in an “adviser” in an official capacity to help out Steve Kearney was the worst possible footnote to the Eels’ big loss to Canterbury on Friday night.

Firstly, such a move in my opinion would only exacerbate an already difficult situation, and its suggestion shows a serious lack of faith in the coach, no matter how vehemently officials pledge him their support.

Secondly, the very fact that it appeared in the press indicates that the club still has a complete inability to keep important information, plans and courses of action in-house.

This is an ongoing problem, and it erodes to the establishment of any stability.

It is not easy to ascertain how concrete plans were, or are, in bringing an individual into the ranks.

Ricky Stuart, who was mentioned as a candidate, told us on the Sunday Footy Show that the newspaper article was the first that he had heard of any such involvement.

However, it is my understanding that a club official had been in contact with Roosters under-20s coach Jason Taylor inquiring into his availability.

My question is: in what capacity? What would be the job description?

Terms such as assistant and co-ordinator were mentioned, but that doesn’t give any insight as to how the new man would be helping.

There already exists an extensive support system, led by Brad Arthur, when it comes to training and tactics.

Selection has to be the sole domain of the head coach, and if he does not have complete autonomy in that area, then he has nothing.

So where would the supposed new expertise have its influence?

Kearney may have been in charge of only 33 NRL games, but we are talking about the New Zealand national coach who has guided the Kiwis to both a World Cup and Four Nations triumph.

He was also an integral part of Craig Bellamy’s staff at the Melbourne Storm and received a glowing endorsement from his former mentor.

I still remember Chris Anderson’s advice to Brad Fittler when he opined that you don’t know what it is like to be a first-grade coach until you have lost four in a row.

Based on that logic, Steve Kearney is a veteran.

He’s at least been around long enough to understand that the job is results-based and that he lives or dies by his own decisions.

A big part of the role is to take in information and then decide what is helpful and what he can’t use.

If he is looking for further input at this stage, the much more palatable way of acquiring it is to seek out people’s opinions he respects and simply talk footy to them. I’ve no doubt there are plenty that he knows who fit the bill and over a cup of coffee would be happy to share their thoughts.

What the club were apparently devising was more akin to a professional slap in the face.

To his eternal credit, Kearney has been up front and centre despite the building pressure and has not tried to duck any issues or avoid responsibility. There have been plenty of coaches in similar circumstances who have self-imposed a media ban or sent along a deputy to face the music.

In good times or bad, I do believe that a coach has that responsibility to tell fans his thoughts and what is happening at their club.

He was particularly frank in the post-match press conference after the loss to the Dogs in saying that his side did not have the necessary “toughness” when faced with adversity, that opposing teams believed that Parramatta would self-destruct as a result of setbacks.

After what we again saw on Friday night there was no argument, but it is rare that a coach is prepared to challenge his team so publicly, even when he was only confirming what most people already believed.

Still, it will be interesting to see how the players react to such an assessment.

Any competitor worth their salt would be hell-bent on proving their coach wrong and doing everything in their power to change his perception.

For those who weren’t hurt by his words, not much will change because it isn’t important enough.

In the end it will always come down to character, and that is invariably best displayed under adversity.

Mental toughness is not an easy thing to just turn on.

A big part of it is an innate quality, but it is also a result of being prepared to do whatever it takes to prevail.

It is about being ready to put effort upon effort upon effort and not think there is an easier way out.

If things do not improve, then there is little doubt that by the very nature of his profession, Steve Kearney is on borrowed time.

With that being the case, it should be based on his own efforts and not undermined by such a suggestion we witnessed over the weekend.

I believe under intense pressure he has shown plenty of character.

We are about to see how much of that quality is possessed by his players.

If they are found lacking, then things will surely get worse before they get better.

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