05252017

Tony Smith: Brian Noble backs coach as Warrington go through ‘perfect storm’

Tony Smith (centre)

Tony Smith has been with Warrington since 2009, having previously coached Leeds and Huddersfield

Former Great Britain coach Brian Noble says there should be no pressure on Warrington boss Tony Smith as his side go through a “perfect storm” of injuries and poor form.

Last season’s Grand Final runners-up are bottom of Super League having lost all six of their games this season.

The Wolves have suffered from injuries, including the loss of Stefan Ratchford.

“They had six or seven busted players at the start of this run,” Noble told BBC 5 live’s Rugby League podcast.

“Every coach will tell you it depends on how healthy your horses are.

“When you’ve invested heavily in super star players – the [Ben] Curries of this world, the Ratchfords, who haven’t been playing, and [Ben] Westwood’s only just back – when you miss those pivotal people, and your other pivotal people are slightly off form, it’s like Leeds encountered last year – the perfect storm.”

‘Everybody is getting used to each other’

Stefan Ratchford<!–

Stefan Ratchford sustained a serious knee injury while training with England for the last Four Nations Series

England utility-back Ratchford returned at St Helens on Friday but was unable to prevent the Wolves losing 31-6 to seal their worst start to Super League.

Their only win this campaign came in the World Club Series when they produced an excellent display to beat Australian side Brisbane Broncos 27-18.

This is in stark contrast to last season when they were consistently good to win the League Leaders’ Shield and reach the Challenge Cup final and Super League Grand Final.

Noble believes a change of personnel has also added to their problems in 2017.

“Remember, they’ve swapped halves,” he added. “Kevin Brown, a new player who has to get used to the system, for [Chris] Sandow, who was a line breaker and a runner. Everyone is getting used to each other.”

Smith not worried for his job

Super League table<!–

The Super League table, with winless Warrington bottom

Smith was asked whether he worried that his job may be under threat after the mis-firing start that has left the Wolves outsiders for a Grand Final, even this early in the season.

“No, if I worried about my job I’d be a taxi driver,” he said. “This is the industry that I love and adore and enjoy. And while my players are trying hard, that’s all any coach can ask of them.

“We’re going to handle this patch with dignity. It’ll come, it’s frustrating in the meantime.

“I enjoy all the times I spend with these boys, even the bad bits.

“This is where people stand up when it gets a bit tough. A lot of people walk away from it all, take the easy decisions. That’s not what Rugby League people do.”

‘Strip it down to basics’

Brian Noble<!–

Brian Noble coached Great Britain from 2004 to 2006

Noble himself has been in a similar position when he was head coach of Bradford. In 2005, the Bulls were hot pre-season favourites, yet suffered opening round defeats against unfancied Wakefield and Widnes.

They lost five of their first nine games, but still went on to win the Grand Final at the end of the year.

“In that position you’re hoping that the players have the same mindsets. Let’s strip this down to basics and find out what’s going wrong and we can put that right.

“They have to understand that to get the first one is very important. They’ve got to kick well and chase well, they’ve got to do all those fundamental things that keep them in a game.

“You’ve got to play the percentages, which you don’t like doing as a coach because you want to entertain. Simplify the game, get one win, then you’ve got to grind out the next one.

“But not having your best players out on deck every week is a strain on the squad.

“It’s not a nice place to be, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and grind out a win.”

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