VIDEO: Waratahs' new strategy after sacking Penney
REACTION: Rebuilding the reputation and culture of NSW Rugby will come before the appointment of a new coach, Waratahs boss Paul Doorn says.
On Monday Doorn stood by the call to sack Penney after five consecutive losses, saying the next coach would be critical to the future of the franchise.
But to get the right person, the outside perspective of NSW Rugby had to be addressed as a priority.
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“What we’re looking at with our recruitment and retention strategy is retaining the really good players we currently have,” Doorn said.
“We know we need to reach out and seek some additional staff for gaps that are clearly identified, so, from our perspective, the coaching won’t be known when we make some of those decisions.
“We’ve got to create and articulate a culture that we’re trying to build around here, ”
Former Wallaby Drew Mitchell was among those critical of Penney’s sacking, tweeting on Sunday: “The coach was never the biggest issue … just a case of making a decision to make it look like something is being done.”
Any word from Hore, Rapp & any other administrators of recent times?
The coach was never the biggest issue..
Just a case of making a decision to make it look like something is being done imo.. https://t.co/6kGJbJ1E5J
— Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) March 28, 2021
With an inexperienced squad that needs upgrading in almost every department, the NSW Rugby board has been criticised for using Penney as a scapegoat for poor results.
However, Doorn said everyone in the business has been held accountable.
Since coming on board at the start of the 2020 season, the Tahs have been through one of the biggest player drains in their history with Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Nick Phipps, Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu, Kurtley Beale, and Bernard Foley among the stars who have left.
Decisions to cut spending in response to the pandemic and uncertainty around Australian rugby also impacted the quality of players the Tahs have been able to field.
But even after a tough year, Doorn said the club expected more from the head coach and added that Penney was given enough time to show improvement.
“Rob would admit that we knew it was an inexperienced side to start with,” he said.
“From our perspective, we gave ample opportunities to demonstrate that and it wasn’t to be.
“We’re looking at results.
“Effectively we’ve had five losses this year, three of them record losses, so what we’re looking for is continued success from the playing group but unfortunately we didn’t see that this year.
“Looking forward we want to see continued growth of our players as we move through the last three rounds of super rugby AU and into Trans Tasman.”
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) March 28, 2021
Meanwhile, Waratahs skipper Jake Gordon revealed there is a sense among the playing group that they’ve let down Penney.
In an emotional meeting with the squad on Monday, Penney addressed the young team and players were given a chance to freely express their frustrations and ask questions about their now uncertain futures.
Gordon said he was shocked to learn the news on Sunday despite the building pressure at the club over a horror stretch of five-straight Super Rugby AU losses.
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“We’re letting our state down, our fans down and our family down, so there’s definitely a sense across the park that we’ve let people down,” Gordon said.
“In a high-performance environment that we’re in, the players need to take ownership for that and it’s unlucky that Rob ended up copping the bullet.
“A lot of the guys are in their first or second year so it’s a bit of a shock.”
According to assistant coach Jason Gilmore, Penney is devastated.
“He’s obviously very disappointed, he’s put a lot of work into the club in the last two years and he can see a bright future here so he’s disappointed,” Gilmore said.
Although the pressure had been building over some time, Gilmore said they were unaware the axe would fall after Saturday’s dismal 14-46 loss to the Reds.
“You’re not naive, everyone has been in the business of coaching for a long time that if you get consecutive losses and they’re big ones, it’s just going to put pressure on,” he said.
Gilmore and fellow assistant Chris Whitaker have taken over as interim coaches tasked with sparking some form of improvement in the young side ahead of Friday’s clash with the Brumbies.
With three games to go in the Super Rugby AU season before the Trans-Tasman competition starts, Gilmore is confident they can win at least one game.
“Definitely. Obviously, it’s going to be a tough one against the Brumbies, that’s a real opportunity to see a bounce back,” he said.