John Mitchell the coach of the Emirates Western Force, several weeks ago announced that he would not be seeking an extension of his coaching contract with the Force at the end of 2011. This confirmed that he would be leaving at the end of next season.
The big question is, ignoring the financial implications of asking him to leave at the end of this season and paying his contract out, should he stay on as coach next season?
The Force on the park in five years has not made the steps forward that many expected and others hoped for. They tried to buy success with big name players, but as is often the case, individuals do not make a team.
The Brumbies this year were tipped by many to be the best Australian Super Rugby team, but they currently sit in 6th, although with a game against the Waratahs this weekend and two home games before a trip to Canterbury, they could well still make the top four and the finals, but again this could prove that individual stars are no guarantee of success.
Eighteen months ago, there was an internal report that stated the players were not happy with Mitchell’s communication skills, and rumours abounded that his contract would have been terminated then if the club did, firstly not have to pay him out so much; the second reason was rumoured to be that one of the clubs major sponsors threatened to pull out as the coach was in fact on their board; which should never have been allowed to happen in the first place.
This season when he announced his decision to quit at the end of next season captain Nathan Sharpe came out and said that he was disappointed that the players had not been advised of this decision prior to the coach going public. Surely this confirms that the relationship between the players and the coach has broken down?
What benefit is there for Mitchell to stay on in the role next year? By making the announcement so early in the piece is he in fact angling for a payout so he can move onto pastures new? Maybe he even has another role lined up and is waiting for the club to release him and pay out his existing contract, and we could be seeing a game of poker being played out.
After five seasons and with the league expanding next season, it is a time for change. Peter O’Meara, the former CEO should never have signed Mitchell to another three years when he did, it was a massive error of judgement, and sadly not the only one made by Mr. O’Meara.
We believe that next season Mitchell should be pushed into a development-coaching role, for the last season of his contract, and a new coach brought in to revitalise the club and the players. This would reveal how genuine he is about the future of this club. If the new coach is happy to call on his experience in an advisory capacity, then so be it. But when someone does not want to be at a club, it tends to imply that their passion and drive has diminished, and therefore it is best to let them go. Just as in the everyday workplace, it is often a mistake to talk someone into staying once they have resigned. These decisions are never taken lightly.
The Force need to show strong leadership to their members and fans for next season and the club needs the enthusiasm of a new coach to refresh the players. John Mulvihill’s name has been thrown up, but also you have Richard Graham at the club at the moment, both would make ideal replacements as they have runs on the board, are young and ambitious. In addition let us not forget that World Cup winning Springbok coach Jake White was keen on the Force head job just over a year ago.