Eels coach sends warning by dropping duo
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - 5:44 PM
Jason Taylor dropped misbehaving stars Tim Smith and Mark Riddell in his first act as Parramatta's caretaker coach and warned teammates faced a similar fate if their attitude didn't improve.
Riddell and Smith also copped $5000 fines from the NRL club, having turned up intoxicated to Monday afternoon's rehabilitation session, just hours before coach Brian Smith's dramatic resignation.
Taylor admitted the situation created by the club's decision to announce before the season that Smith would be replaced by Newcastle's Michael Hagan next year had been "enormously distracting for the players".
But he made it clear he wouldn't accept it as an excuse for players not putting in fully at training, as he believed had been the case.
"So far this season at this club we've been worrying too much about what's been happening next year," former assistant Taylor said.
"I don't think discipline is slipping but ... some of the players have gotten away with doing a little bit less than what they've done in the past and blaming other reasons for it.
"The coaching situation that has been going on here all year has been enormously distracting for the players ... (but) to use that as an excuse to not be training as hard as you could be, I don't think that's fair.
"All I'm asking as a club and as players, that they get back to working as hard as they can to be the best player they can."
Already without injured captain Nathan Cayless and NSW Origin pair Nathan Hindmarsh and Timana Tahu for Friday night's match against Penrith, Taylor made good on a promise to give some of his Premier League stars a chance in the top grade.
He dropped winger Matt Petersen and promoted debutant Jarryd Hayne, Luke O'Dwyer, Jeremy Smith, Zeb Taia, Josh Cordoba and Daniel Wagon.
While the players won't be allowed to use the coaching saga as an excuse for continued poor performances, Taylor admitted it got the best of Smith.
"I know that he was trying as hard as he could but the situation was getting the better of him," said Taylor, who was given Smith's blessing to take over.
"He was giving it every bit of energy he had, but because there was so much other stuff going on, so many distractions, his 100 per cent (effort) probably wasn't good enough."
Parramatta CEO Denis Fitzgerald fined halfback Smith and hooker Ridddell after an investigation into their behaviour on Monday, the day after a loss to the Bulldogs that took the Eels' season record to 2-7.
"We did find that they had misbehaved and were intoxicated yesterday during the day," said Fitzgerald.
"They were also guilty of unruly behavior as part of that."
Riddell and Smith apologised in a short statement but did not field questions from reporters.
"I just want to apologise first and foremost for bringing the club into disrepute," Riddell said.
"I would also like to apologise to my family, my teammates, the staff here at Parramatta, the supporters of our club, rugby league in general and the public."
Smith added: "I just want to apologise for my behaviour yesterday ... I'm very, very sorry for my actions."
Eels CEO Denis Fitzgerald denied the club was in crisis and denied Smith's resignation was linked to the incident.
"I see this as a challenge, and I've been through many challenges in the 28 years I've been here," Fitzgerald said.
"We've got a very stable club generally and I see no reason why we won't get over this hurdle and move on."
Meanwhile Newcastle chief executive Ken Conway denied Smith's resignation was a cause for concern for his club.
"It won't change our relationship for the rest of this year with Michael (Hagan) or Brian," he said.
"As Parramatta are consulting Michael about retention issues we've been consulting Brian, we only have a handful of players off contract this year, so it's not a major issue."