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OPINION: How Long Does Trent Robinson Have?

We are about to start round 11 of the 2016 NRL season and all coaches still have their jobs. We haven’t had a season in 11 years where all coaches kept their jobs for the whole season, and I doubt that this season will be breaking that streak. Some coaches are safe in spite of poor results, some are in trouble with middling results, but which ones are which? We don’t know for sure without access to the inner workings of each club, but rest assured, someone will go.

It seems absurd to suggest it given the achievements of the past few years, but in the position he is in, at the club he is coaching, at some point soon, Trent Robinson’s job is going to be under pressure.

There are myriad reasons that the Roosters are doing as poorly as they are this season, but at a club that tends to demand success, you have to question, at what point does Robinson’s position begin to become unstable?

There is absolutely no denying that the man can coach. With an admittedly strong roster, the Roosters have pulled in the last 3 Minor Premierships, and that is no small feat, but as the losses begin to accumulate, will detractors start to point out that those three Minor’s only resulted in one Major? The Roosters fell a game short in 2 consecutive seasons where they were the best home and away team of the year. Most clubs would be ecstatic to finish in the final 4 teams for 3 consecutive years, but at what point did the Roosters hierarchy have higher expectations than that? Is it fair to consider the last 2 seasons disappointing? Does not making the Grand Final after 3 years at number one constitute a failure?

These are all questions that the Roosters board need to (and more than likely have) ask themselves. Their answers will decide what Trent Robinson’s threshold is for this year. If they consider the last 3 years outstanding successes, then that surely buys him this entire season at a minimum. If there are any lingering doubts about results versus expectations, then things become more interesting

The real question for punters like us is one of precedent.

What does it take to get sacked after a top 4 finish (or three)? Looking back…

Matthew Elliott took a Penrith team that nobody expected to compete at the highest level to 2nd in the regular season and one game short of a Grand Final appearance in 2010. In 2011 they were 10th by Round 15* and Elliott was unemployed. Incidentally, they finished the season in a lower position than they were in when he was let go.

Brian Smith inherited a Wooden Spoon team in 2010 and got them to the Grand Final (which he of course lost, because he is Brian Smith and that is what he does) and then led that team to mediocrity for 2 full seasons before the Roosters let him go** One thing to be remembered about this situation though, is that when Smith was initially hired, he was their 4th coach in 5 years and showing him the door any sooner than they did would have painted the Roosters as a difficult employer to work with.

The late Graham Murray took the Cowboys to their inaugural Grand Final in 2005, just missed the finals in 2006 and got them within a game of another Grand Final appearance in 2007. So when North Queensland went through a slump in early 2008 Murray lasted until just Round 10, where the Cowboys had 3 mins and 7 losses – a better position than the Roosters find themselves in right now. Another example where replacing the coach did nothing to improve the team’s fortunes as the Cowboys went on to lose their next 9 consecutive games under Ian Millward.

Poor Graham Murray got the short end of the stick earlier in his career too – ominously for Trent Robinson – this time at the Roosters.

Having to follow in the footsteps of coaching giant Phil Gould, Murray took the Roosters to a Grand Final in his first year in charge. The following year they never finished a single round outside of the top 8, but were knocked out in the first week of the finals, by eventual champions Newcastle. No real shame in that, you would think. The Roosters thought differently. This was a club that at that time were accustomed to playing multiple games in September. 2 days after the season finished, Murray was sacked.

Not only is there precedent, there is precedent from the same club that Robinson is coaching at right now.

Again, I have to say, it seems like madness to suggest that Trent Robinson’s job is under any pressure. But maybe it isn’t as far-fetched as it seems.

 

 

*Which was only slightly below where most people would have expected that roster to be

**One of these days I am going to do up the Bell Curves of Brian Smith’s coaching stints. He has an amazing knack of joining a club that is struggling, taking X amount of time to get them competitive (often to a losing grand final) and then taking that same amount of time to get them back to the position of struggling again before the club moves him on. It’s almost impressive.

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