More Change


Brett White has joined the organisational exodus after he agreed to join the Gold Coast Titans as an assistant coach from next season.

It’s part of a host of changes occurring at the Raiders. We remarked on these last week. White has been joined by list manager Kelly Egan, fitness guru Jeremy Hickmans, and another assistant Andrew McFadden departing the club.

We previously had noted that each of these was explainable in its own right. Hickmans was always going to head back to Bennett’s warm embrace. McFadden has been offered a promotion of sorts, going from another voice in the box to the recruitment manager for the Warriors. There was less clarity around Egan’s departure, but the rumours, and the way the club had spoken about it, suggested it was circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

The White situation is less clear to me. It’s always hard to know the specifics of what assistant coaches (or any coaches for that matter) contribute. Partly that’s the opaque nature of the discussion of NRL backrooms. Partly it’s the necessary personal connections to get the jobs in the first place. Outside of the media telling you someone is the second coming (and they have a pretty mixed record of that) one can never be entirely sure about what’s going on behind closed doors. We can say for certain that in White’s time as an assistant Canberra has had a consistently good forward pack, and that people have often spoke of his role in helping young forwards transition to the top level. Given the need to fast track the next generation of middles this is something the Milk will miss.

For White we wish him nothing but the best. He’s been a massive part of the Milk as both a player and a coach. I assume the appeal is a wider range of experiences on his resume. Getting out from under Stuart’s shadow, where White has spent his entire coaching career, could help him make the transition to the next level. A different set of voices to advocate for him if he looks for employment as a head coach. A different epistemology and a new set of skills to apply. There’s a talented pack for White to work with (if that’s the nature of the job he’s going to). Justin Holbrook is hardly in a safe spot job-wise – his seat is so warm you’d swear it was an additional extra on a new car. That could go either way for White – when (and I think it’s when) Holbrook loses his job, it may provide a pathway to more responsibility. He may also be thrown out as part of the old regime. I guess it depends who comes next.

We said last week this change begets opportunity, and that Canberra can fill the vacuum with new voices. They may never update the head coach position, so why not put new voices around him? It’s been a while since there were new ideas at the Milk, and so there’s a chance here to innovate.

One wonders if that was part of what drove this – whether Stuart was happy for White and McFadden to leave because he recognised that alternate analysis was needed, or whether fate intervened and is forcing this upon the Raiders and compelling them to re-calibrate. Given Stuart’s hard and fastened approach, and the general positivity that White is viewed, I would lean to the latter, but the outcome is the same either way.

Opportunity remains. But it comes with an acknowledgement that it feels like it’s occurring with a much less stable base now that White is joining McFadden in leaving. New blood was needed, but my pessimistic soul prefers more piecemeal change than this more substantive variety. But there’s no doubt that change can help this club. Too long have they been trying to recapture the 2019 vibe. The roster has moved on, it only makes sense that the backroom moves with the times too.

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