Tony Iro.Photo by Getty
'As one door closes another opens' isn't a phrase
commonly associated with league. Plum league jobs don't grow on
trees in this country.
But Tony Iro has managed the trick - having quit as the
Warriors assistant coach he was appointed the New Zealand
Rugby League's high performance manager.
One of the key jobs for Iro, the assistant to Kiwi coach
Stephen Kearney, will be liaising with players and their
clubs to monitor and improve form as the Kiwis set out to
retain the World Cup in Europe next year.
The 45-year-old Iro, who played 25 tests, looks over his
career, talks Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams, and tips
future Warriors stars.
What led you to quitting the Warriors yet rejecting a job
with the Roosters?
It was intimated that I lacked in a couple of areas and
needed to go elsewhere to fill those things. I had complete
faith in how the club did the process and maybe it's time for
another voice there - I've worked with 12 of the current
first grade boys since 2005. But the other big thing was my
family - my three daughters were very keen on staying in
Did you hold a family conference?
We didn't have to - I could see it in their faces. They were
prepared to go, but they weren't keen. Fortunately the NZRL
role came up. The World Cup is a real big drawcard for me -
I'm so keen to help the boys retain it. I'll still be
learning things that I hope can lead to a head coaching job.
Speaking of learning - sports science is all the rage in
Every year there is something new. The Bulldogs used beetroot
juice and previously Manly had calf blood injections. Five
years ago no one had heard of anti-gravity running machines -
now every NRL club has them. (Melbourne coach) Craig Bellamy
has been to Europe so he'll come back with the latest from
soccer. The difference might be half a per cent, but a few of
those things can make a big difference.
Even Alex Ferguson dabbles with the James Bond
The Kiwi staff visited Manchester United and I remember
seeing a big tent filled with lights. It was to do with
improving peripheral vision I think - it looked like
Disneyland. Those things do work, but maybe not for every
player. If one or two can find a significant difference, and
others a small difference...
Would Wallaby reject Quade Cooper succeed in the NRL?
I'm not sure. He is a bit like (Bulldogs star) Ben Barba -
when I saw Ben in the under-20s I thought he was no chance
because he didn't want to tackle. If Cooper can get his head
around that, there is no doubt he could be good.
What are Sonny Bill Williams' Kiwi prospects?
He will find it hard coming straight back to the NRL because
of the recent injury. I'd like to see him take his time and I
know the Roosters won't be rushing him. If he plays to
potential and is injury free he will be picked for the Kiwis.
The controversial new shoulder charge rule...
I've got no problem with it - there is a lot more to the game
than shoulder charges. The player reaction has been
interesting though. They need to be remunerated better yet
you don't see Tweets about that. They need to be more
passionate about having a common voice.
Your playing career highlight?
Finally beating Australia in 1997, having made my debut in
1988. It was even more special winning again at North Harbour
the next year because people claimed it was a weaker
Australian Super League team in 1997. I played alongside my
brother (Kevin) in 1998 and three other Glen Innes boys I
grew up with - Richie Barnett, Logan Swann and Sean Hoppe.
That was a proud moment and all our families were there.
Where is Kevin these days?
Running a sports academy in Rarotonga for 15 and 16 year olds
who drop out of the education system. He tries to place them
in schools around Australia and New Zealand.
Your biggest regret?
I didn't fulfil my potential as a player. But that helps me
now in getting the young guys to work as hard as they can.
The best player from your days?
Cliff Lyons - I was lucky to spend four years at Manly at his
peak. He was a magician but without the all round discipline
of Wally Lewis. Cliffy was ultra competitive - he had to win
the touch warm-ups, every game of golf he played etc etc.
Joey (Andrew Johns) was the best I've played against. He had
everything and was the smartest footballer around.
The craziest team mate?
A guy called Phil Bergman from Nelson who was in the Roosters
reserve grade. He was the funniest bloke, always up for a
joke and didn't mind being the butt of them. When there was
talk of him being cut the senior first graders demanded he
stay because he was such a positive influence.
Could you pick a couple of future Warriors stars?
The two outside backs Ngataua Hukatai and David Fusitua. They
are both big men, really dedicated trainers, and most
importantly, quick. They can make a rapid transition to first
- By Chris Rattue of the New Zealand Herald