There’s an old saying in sport that goes “nice guys finish last”.
I sincerely hope this isn’t the case for the now-former Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. Most reaction I’ve observed since Saturday’s shock news seems to be a widespread acceptance of what a good bugger Kearney is while also acknowledging the results of the team under his tenure simply aren’t good enough.
And, as we all know, professional sport is first and foremost a results-driven business.
Ultimately, that’s all that counts. Wins. The NRL equals W’s. Concrete achievements as determined by, and ONLY by, where you finish on the points table and how many times you make the playoffs.
Under that criteria, Kearney has failed as a coach. And demonstrably so. Making the eight in his first year in charge was excellent. Trouble is, we then all expected that that was just the start. Finally, did we not all think, here comes the consistency the club’s been crying out for since 1995.
And of course, that ever-increasing desperation for success has perhaps now become the Warriors biggest problem. 25 years of what-ifs, almosts, very nearly’s and the annual “this IS our year” optimism has become a major part of the never-ending malaise suffocating the franchise.
Success is not only wanted, it’s demanded. So one satisfactory season has to be followed by another, then another after that. In Kearney’s case, the last two and a bit years have completely undone everything achieved in 2017.
Last year was simply dreadful with just nine wins from 24 games. This year a 2-and-6 record was enough to see him fired. And no, it’s not all his fault. To suggest so is just nonsense. But when it comes to finger-pointing and blame allocation, the coach will always wear it before his underperforming players. It’s just the way it goes, the sorry side of the business even.
The suddenness of the announcement, the public flogging that inevitably follows, the personal kneejerk judgments immediately made, Kearney will know better than most that this IS the business.
That’s why I hate that other old saying “it’s not personal, it’s just business”. For everyone else it might be, for the very nice guy that Stephen Kearney is though, it’s nothing BUT personal.