While the focus has understandably been on Simon Mannering’s retirement, this week also marks farewell time for long-serving Vodafone Warriors coach Andrew ‘Cappy’ McFadden.
The former Canberra, Parramatta and Melbourne halfback ends his association with the club after six seasons to return home to Canberra.
His move was announced in February before his final campaign with the Vodafone Warriors had kicked off in earnest. The club wanted the popular him to stay on but the pull of home was calling the McFadden family to return to Canberra.
And early last month it was confirmed he had been replaced by one of his former Raiders team-mates Todd Payten, who has been an assistant to Paul Green at North Queensland.
Only Ivan Cleary has had a longer coaching connection with the Vodafone Warriors than McFadden. Cleary was with the club first as an assistant coach in 2005 and then in charge for six seasons, a total of 178 matches with 154 of them as head coach.
McFadden began his time at Mount Smart Stadium in 2013 with 29 games as an assistant coach, moved into the top job for 67 games from 2014-2016 and finished his stint with 49 games as one of Stephen Kearney’s trusty lieutenants the last two seasons. In all, he had 145 games (64 wins, 81 losses) with the NRL squad’s coaching staff; he has undoubtedly been one of the most loyal servants in the club’s history through what has been a challenging period.
For five straight seasons McFadden was forced to digest the unpalatable flavour of failing to make the finals with the Vodafone Warriors. So it was fitting then that the goal was finally realised in his last season, even though the euphoria was short-lived following last Saturday’s loss to Penrith sudden-death play-off. No one deserved the reward more than him.
He has worked alongside an array of coaches during his time here. As well as Matt Elliott and Kearney as head coaches, other assistant coaches he has combined with have been Ricky Henry, Adam Mogg, Tony Iro, Andrew Webster, Justin Morgan, Stacey Jones and Steve McNamara. McFadden has also worked with three CEOs and has witnessed the club changing ownership.
It may have taken six seasons for him to be associated with a Vodafone Warriors side that reached the play-offs but there have been plenty of performances which will always rank highly:
2013 | In his first season with the Vodafone Warriors as an assistant to Elliott, McFadden was part of some notable victories, not least an astonishing 56-18 win over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, an impressive 23-12 away victory over the Sydney Roosters and hard-fought home successes against the Broncos (18-16) and Melbourne (30-22).
2014 | In the sixth round of the season, McFadden was handed the reins as head coach. After two losses in his first two games in charge, McFadden’s first victory was one of his best, maybe the best – beating the Storm 16-10 in Melbourne on Anzac Day (the last time the Vodafone Warriors have won there). It was followed by a 54-12 dismantling of Canberra, the club’s first and only win at Eden Park in six attempts. There was also an amazing 48-0 shutout of Parramatta (including that scrum pushover try Sam Tomkins scored) and a 54-18 rampage in Canberra when Manu Vatuvei scored a hat-trick.
2015 | The year started with a blast when the Vodafone Warriors created plenty of interest in the party atmosphere at the first NRL Auckland Nines. Later there was a special night for the club when Vatuvei marked his 200th NRL appearance with two tries in a 32-22 win over Wests Tigers (followed by a surprise appearance by Jonah Lomu who made a presentation to the Beast). Other matches to remember were the stunning 20-16 away win over the Sharks (Shaun Johnson with the late match winner) followed by a 17-13 golden point thriller against Parramatta when Bodene Thompson broke the deadlock and, above all, one of the all-time best matches in the club’s history – the 28-14 Michael Moore Trophy win over Melbourne (think Nathan Friend’s between-the-legs off load).
2016 | What would be Cappy’s last season in charge failed to deliver the desired outcome but wasn’t short of matches and moments to cherish. Like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s golden point try in the 32-28 win over the Roosters and a quality 24-20 success over Canterbury-Bankstown in Wellington. Another high point was the 26-10 home win over the Dragons when the Vodafone Warriors were without several players, a tough 12-10 victory over the Roosters and Johnson’s dazzling try for a 20-16 golden point win over Penrith. Another day to remember was a quality 24-14 win over Gold Coast, spoiling the Titans’ intended party to welcome Jarryd Hayne in front of a packed house at Cbus Super Stadium. It was also a remarkable season for golden point games, the Vodafone Warriors figuring in five of them and cruelly losing three in a four-week period at one stage.
2017 | In a challenging year there were still high points including a 22-10 win over Parramatta and another gritty arm wrestle in accounting for the Roosters 14-13. There was also a strong performance in downing the Broncos (28-10), who were second on the table at the time, followed soon after by a 34-12 win over the Titans on the night Ryan Hoffman played his 300th NRL match. There was a night of celebration in the next outing, the Vodafone Warriors beating the Bulldogs 21-14 when the 1977 Auckland team was honoured on the 40th anniversary of its unique feat of beating Australia, Great Britain and France in the space of 21 days.
2018 | Take your pick here from the opening success over the Rabbitohs (32-20) – the club’s first win in Perth – followed by the wins over Gold Coast (20-8), Canberra (20-19), the Roosters (30-6) and then the Cowboys (22-12) in the SKYCITY Auckland Double Header. There were 10 more wins to come, too, the home and away double over the Dragons was special, as was the 26-6 victory over the Broncos and last two home wins over Penrith and Canberra including Simon Mannering’s unforgettable 300th celebration.
During his time McFadden saw a number of homegrown products come through the system to establish themselves in the NRL side and he also witnessed many players retire or move on, among them Jerome Ropati, Sam Rapira, Ben Henry, Nathan Friend, Thomas Leuluai, Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Vatuvei and lastly Mannering.
Now it’s McFadden’s time.
So long, Cappy. Thanks for the memories and the selfless contribution you’ve made to the Vodafone Warriors. You’re a huge part of this club and always will be. All the best to you, Bonny and the kids back in Canberra.