Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Lam to the slaughter - time to go

75 comments
Pat Lam. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Pat Lam. Photo / Dean Purcell.

It's time to pull the plug on Pat Lam - let him go while he still has a shred of credibility and the potential to find a job elsewhere.

Prolonging the agony will do neither him nor the Blues any good. The 2012 campaign has, almost irrespective of what happens in the next eight weeks, a good claim to be considered their worst. A solitary victory in their first six games - that's a disaster and it's increasingly difficult to see what can be salvaged now.

The mistakes have been obvious for all to see: inconsistent and erratic selections; a refusal to commit to individuals; poorly constructed game plans and non-existent defensive patterns. Bad luck has played a major part, too, with the injury toll unkindly high but that shouldn't be seen as a basis to legitimise their failures - more a means of highlighting that the initial squad had major holes in it.

The New Zealand Rugby Union will be stretching the patience and good will of the rugby public, particularly the Auckland fan base, to persevere with their insistence that it's imperative for them to tie Lam into his contract for another year.

It's not relevant to dissect whether Lam is a good or bad coach. He's just not the right coach for the Blues. They are sitting on 10 points after six games; that can hardly be a point of contention.

It happens - sometimes a coach finds he's not able to get through to players; they don't fully understand his ideas, his messages or his overall vision.

Lam was slowly progressing until this year. His talk of building cultures and systems and making improvements was validated by improvement in results. This year was supposed to be when it all came together. The arrival of All Black stars Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu would be the final ingredients to enable the team to surpass last year's achievement of reaching the last four.

Everything has collapsed and no one outside of the NZRU will understand if Lam is reappointed for another year. If he's not going to be the coach in 2013 - as surely he can't be - then why not make changes now? It's not as if things can get any worse.

The Blues have already lost most of those coming off contract: Jerome Kaino, Chris Lowrey, Brad Mika, Isaia Toeava, Benson Stanley and Lachie Munro.

The NZRU needs to consider the longer-term effect of allowing the Blues to drift through the next eight weeks when they are so clearly broken. What will be the impact on crowds and commercial support when the fan base has no faith and only growing ire for an organisation that refuses to admit its faults and make changes?

There is Lam's future to consider as well. He's thrown his soul into Auckland and the Blues since 2004 and while, ultimately, it hasn't worked out, no one can doubt his passion, desire and commitment to his players, franchise and job. He deserves to be able to extricate himself from the Blues with some dignity.

He's been linked with Bath, who confirmed last week that Sir Ian McGeechan will be leaving at the end of the season. When reports first surfaced about Lam heading to the West Country, it was in the context of him operating as head coach and McGeechan (his mentor at both Northampton and Scotland) as director of rugby.

Whether Lam remains of interest to the club, who say they will shortly announce a head coach, is not known. But undoubtedly there will be opportunity in Europe as Lam remains a respected figure from his playing days with Newcastle and Northampton.

The new season over there will begin in late August and, ideally, if Lam is going to take a position, he'd need to be there before the end of Super Rugby.

So why not let him begin that hunt in earnest now? Let him be free to assess and pursue alternative options so he and the Blues can both begin what will hopefully be brighter futures.

- Herald on Sunday

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

Read more by Gregor Paul

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 24 Nov 2014 01:20:41 Processing Time: 496ms