Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Brian Carney's talking points: Man of Steel, NRL coaches and Trent Barrett's excuses
Last Updated: 14/08/18 3:16pm
Sky Sports' Brian Carney discusses the problem with Man of Steel, coaching chaos in Australia and his issue with Trent Barrett's excuses for potentially leaving Manly...
Steel needs sorting...
Man of Steel. I believe the way we crown the best individual player in this country must change. And if we have to persist with it, then how it is awarded must change.
There has been only one name mentioned all year. In much of the media, in the terraces. Ben Barba. It's overshadowed all other potential candidates.
If you look at the Dally M system in Australia, each NRL match sees players rated with a score of either 3, 2 or 1. At the end of the season, the players vying to win the award are apparent by virtue of their scores.
But in Super League, all we have heard about is Ben Barba. What about players from Huddersfield? From Wakefield? Bill Tupou? The likes of Daryl Clark or Sam Tomkins? Or others from St Helens like James Roby?
We are all guilty - players, supporters, media - of not being objective enough in selecting the best players.
Barba is a great player but every year we see the same thing. One name gets promoted above all others and then there is a frantic scramble to make up the rest of the shortlist. What if he gets injured? What if his form drops off?
Barba was subject to a host of unsavoury terrace comments from the St Helens crowd when he was replaced in the most recent defeat to Huddersfield. Will that come into it?
The system needs to be refined so that we can track and promote the progress of the most talented players throughout the season.
I would suggest to whoever owns the properties to Man of Steel - RFL, Super League - that the process is fixed up by the start of next season.
We are currently experiencing a missed opportunity. It's a process that needs correcting urgently.
This is a topic we are likely to discuss more alongside Wakefield owner Michael Carter on Thursday's Golden Point episode, live on Sky Sports Action from 7pm.
Coaching mayhem down under
The coaching merry-go-round in Australia has gone into hyper-drive. It's phenomenal.
If you are a coach in Australia, you'd want to be asking serious questions if you have not been linked with another job at this stage.
McGregor under pressure at the Dragons? Bennett back at the Dragons? Bennett out at Broncos? Cleary to Penrith? Barrett to Penrith? Barrett leaving the Sea Eagles?
That sort of rumour mill - like it or loathe it - has meant rugby league is dominating the sport headlines in Australia.
Such rampant speculation is not everybody's cup of tea, but the evidence would suggest that it is the cup of tea of most people to make it worth fuelling.
Now, we have a distinct lack of such speculation in Super League. And I cannot quite put my finger on it.
People seem to shy away from scratching the surface of a story and finding out what the real reasons for a sacking or appointment are, or to heavily speculate on whether a coach is about to lose his job.
I appreciate it may seem a little callous, but that is sport at professional level. And like it or not, that is what fuels interest.
I'll give you an example of what I mean.
Leeds sack their coach Brian McDermott, a coach who won four Grand Finals at the club, and people here accepted the club line that it was just because of poor results up to round 19. I don't believe a bit of that.
Such an incident in a number of other sports would have merited a more in-depth investigation a la the Phil Gould/Anthony Griffin/Ivan Cleary saga currently enthralling Australians.
Journalistic cheerleading does the game a disservice.
We could perhaps do with some of the intense examinations and general interest behind coaching changes widespread down under, up here.
Barrett, facilities and its misnomers
Speaking of coaching changes and Man of Steel contenders, Trent Barrett, who many feel should have won the award in 2007 after an outstanding year for Wigan, is believed to be on the way out of Manly of his own volition.
And he is believed to have cited a lack of support from the club in terms of training infrastructure and resources.
I cannot say enough how much of a red herring - and that is the right phrase - I believe this to be.
State-of-the-art training grounds are lovely and comfortable but by no means are they a requirement for, nor barometer of, success. Yet, they are often held up as such.
The millions of pounds spent by clubs on meeting rooms with padded chairs which look like a cinema, individual computers with all the latest software or virtual reality training methods can sometimes be considered a marker of greatness or value.
But it's far from it. If I was a player, would I prefer to play in a rugby training ground with lovely facilities and all of that? Yes. But would it make me a better player? I'm not so sure.
Why would I like it? Because it's easier and no matter who you are, it's human nature to tend to prefer the easier option.
I played rugby union with Munster when the province was split between two cities: Cork and Limerick.
Weights were done separately. The Cork group trained on their own, the Limerick group trained on their own.
For the field sessions, on alternate days the Cork players would drive to Limerick to train together and the Limerick players would drive to Cork to train together.
We trained on school pitches, back pitches and pitches which more resembled a field.
I don't associate myself with any of Munster's success but let me tell you what that group of players achieved. They won two Heineken Cups in three years.
A lack of world-class training facilities absolutely did not harm them.
Ironically, Munster now have a single centre in Limerick with state-of-the-art facilities, but not a trophy has been won.
I am not telling you they won two Heineken Cups because they trained in back fields, in separate gyms or on borrowed facilities. I'm not saying that.
But I would also stand and argue with anyone that would turn and say their club won because of great facilities.
Munster won because they had a great team that were willing to train and play wherever, whenever and do whatever it took to win.
So Barrett, when citing lack of training ground support as reasons to walk away from Manly if he does walk away - that is the lamest of excuses in my book.
Want a Super League example? Go and look at the Castleford Tigers and the success they have had with facilities which, by their own admission, are very basic.
I have a friend who visited a top French rugby union club recently, and within their base they had a 4,000 Euro coffee-making machine and a centre resembling a first-class lounge of an airport. The club has had next to no success.
I'm not suggesting players should be deliberately impoverished in terms of training facilities, but be careful about what players will soon believe they are entitled to by right.
A £3,000 coffee machine becomes expected and taken for granted where a kettle might previously have been welcomed.
At Newcastle Knights in 2006, if I showed you the weight room we were using the reaction would be: 'No way!', and yet we finished fourth in NRL that year.
With Gateshead Thunder in 1999, we must have had about 20 different training venues throughout the year and we finished sixth, just two points off the playoffs in an extremely competitive league.
It's not about the buildings you train in, or the pitches you train on, it's about what's inside the players you ask to train.
Fancy training facilities may be great when showing a player around the club and trying to entice him to sign, but if any player chose not to sign with a club because of facilities, I think that would tell you more about the player's character and what he considered important.
At sporting clubs, I've always been an advocate of player welfare and player safety having been a player, but let me tell you, coaches and club owners have got it very wrong if they believe training facilities are even in the top three of important things at a club.