The West

Murray McHenry
Murray McHenry

French author Voltaire once famously said: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Former West Coast chairman and current West Australian Football Commission board member Murray McHenry's comments on John Worsfold's coaching tenure sit in a different category.

Many would agree with what he said. Anyone with half a clue about the role and responsibilities of a WAFC commissioner would question his right to say it.

McHenry didn't so much condemn Worsfold, he simply aired the possibility that a poor finish to the season could jeopardise the premiership coach's tenure at the Eagles.

After two years out of the eight - and a third which looks increasingly likely to follow suit - you would probably find plenty of Eagles supporters who would agree with McHenry.

Eagles chairman Mark Barnaba was content to let the former chairman have his opinion on the subject, but WAFC chairman Neale Fong was uncomfortable with it, quick to point out it was not a commissioner's role to comment on either of WA's AFL clubs.

McHenry is a passionate football person who has supported the Eagles throughout their existence. He was a key figure in the club's rise and, it must be said, has been a key figure in the changing of coaches over the years.

But as a commissioner, effectively a director of the body which owns West Coast, which in turn operates with a charter of independence from the WAFC, McHenry has no role in contributing to speculation about Worsfold's future. Not at any stage, but particularly not at this delicate stage.

This is a big fortnight for Worsfold, who is under contract until the end of 2011 but coaches a club not famous for patience and compassion when it comes to coaches.

No coach of a start-up club has done better than Ron Alexander's 11 wins at the Eagles in 1987. Alexander didn't get to see a second year.

WA legend John Todd was the first coach to take the Eagles into finals in their second year. But when the injury-riddled team missed the eight the following year, Todd followed Alexander.

Ken Judge inherited a battle- weary and banged-up squad from Mick Malthouse in 2000. He got sacked halfway through a four-year contract at the end of an injury-ravaged 2001.

All of those departures were acrimonious. If Worsfold doesn't see the end of his contract, the Eagles simply can't afford to handle the departure of a dual premiership captain and premiership coach the same way.

They particularly can't afford to have any fingerprints of former club powerbrokers like McHenry on the weapon in the event of Worsfold's coaching stint being killed off.

He goes against Geelong next week in a game the Eagles are unlikely to win, then Richmond, where the consequences of losing would be grave.

There is growing speculation that the Eagles have an increasingly open mind on their coach for 2011. When a man has a contract in place, an open mind from his club is a dangerous thing.

But there are also consequences for the West Coast board if they decide to move on Worsfold. Only 12 months ago, they felt he was the man to take the club forward.

Worsfold is well known to his board and his club. He has been there since 2002 as coach and played there from inception until 1998.

The board was in a position to know his strengths and weaknesses well.

The directors were in a position to get the last decision on him right and if they were to end his tenure early, you can only presume it is an admission they got it wrong.

The West Australian

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