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Saturday, 26 July 2014

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Bottom line for Haven

THAT was the week that was down at Whitehaven.

Chairman Dick Raaz warns of drastic cutbacks if things don’t dramatically improve on and off the field, coach Ged Stokes secures a new two-year deal despite one of the team’s worst starts ever; and Gregg McNally heads back to Huddersfield (almost post haste) making way for two Wigan starlets short term.

On top of it all a former Scottish rugby union international centre (Tom Philip) suddenly turns out at the eleventh hour for Haven’s second string.

All adding up to a real bubble and squeak mix, though I’ve heard some perplexed fans use other descriptions!

The head coach’s two year contract extension is talk of the town – ask at least one local general election candidate.

He has confided he’s probably been asked more questions on this than anything else during his first bash of campaigning!

The timing, on the back of such a string of losses, was greeted with surprise, even shock, among some supporters.

As I said last week, it would be wrong to contemplate changing this season’s coaching horses in midstream!

I have the highest regard for this engaging Kiwi and his coaching credentials yet the question is being asked: “Would it not have been more prudent to wait until his team put in some performances?”

The deal may well have been struck some while ago but whatever it’s an enormous vote of confidence in Ged’s ability to turn things round, underlining the Board’s total confidence in him short and long term. In other words not a reward for failure!

Stability, as well as faith in Stokes’ coaching quality, is seen to be important.

Former Haven coach, the renowned Phil Kitchin, told me: “I’m pleased for Ged, I wish I could have got that kind of stability!”

Also raising eyebrows was Dick Raaz’s broadside that unless performances, gates and finances improved substantially dire consequences could follow – “cuts to playing staff, wages, coaching and admin-istrative staff,” he said might be considered.

Not the kind of news anyone wanted to hear, least of all, I suspect, potential investors in super stadium plans.

The hope was that “financials” had improved sufficiently over the last 12 months to bear better tidings but the word dire was again used and as the American boss would say it’s the bottom line.

Obviously one away game after another hasn’t helped.

Which is why Haven must build on last week’s gritty away performance in beating Dewsbury by winning at Blackpool in the Challenge Cup – it won’t be easy but rarely can this club have been in greater need of a money spinning tie against one of the glamour boys.

One more surprise was Mr Stokes’ decision to release Gregg McNally back to Huddersfield so paving the way for the recruitment of Wigan dual registration pair Stefan Marsh and Josh Veivers, son of ex-St Helens ace Phil – this only a short while after the coach said he welcomed Gregg back “to finish off the breaks”.

For one reason or another things haven’t worked out – who would have thought that when not so long ago young McNally had the RL world at his dazzling feet earning lavish praise from the likes of Garry Schofield and the late David Topliss?

Money “saved” on the talented 19-year-old might also be used to bring in someone else – meanwhile we wait to see how Tom Philip gets on.

Tom won five full Scottish RU caps six years ago until stopped in his tracks by a serious knee injury on a 2004 tour Down Under, but he’s still only 26 and anxious for a rugby comeback – could he be the middle back fillip Haven need right now on a three-month contract.

Dual registration seems to be the name of the game, it’s hardly stability, but for now needs must. Bottom line.


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