Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: New Blues assistants might outlast Kirwan

Two-year contracts for Blues assistant coaches will be out of step with John Kirwan.
Two-year contracts for Blues assistant coaches will be out of step with John Kirwan.

The hunt for John Kirwan's assistant coaches is well under way at the Blues, yet a curiosity of the contracts up for grabs is that they are for two years when the former All Black might be in charge for only one more.

The possibility of Kirwan's successor inheriting his assistants, rather than having a say in selecting his own, has been defended by Blues chief executive Michael Redman.

The closing date for applications for the roles of forwards coach and backs coach is next Friday.

"It's difficult to recruit people for a single year, especially those coming from fulltime roles, so we think a minimum of two years is right for someone to make a commitment to us and vice versa," Redman said.

Redman is right. There are few guarantees in the professional coaching world, and having at least two years of security must be considered a minimum.

But it is not an ideal position for the Blues to be in and the twin resignations of Graham Henry and Mick Byrne have come at a bad time.

Kirwan still has Grant Doorey alongside him but, although it appeared clear that Henry was tiring of some aspects of his position - his wasn't a fulltime travelling role - some continuity through to next year probably would have been preferable to the appointments of two new coaching faces to the franchise.

The ability to work as a coaching team is now considered paramount in the professional game, and there is a suspicion the Blues will retain the right to let go of their assistants if Kirwan departs.

Dave Rennie effectively changed the Super Rugby landscape in New Zealand when he took over at the Chiefs for the 2012 season. Before then the New Zealand Rugby Union had paid only for a head coach and one assistant, and franchises were reluctant to fork out their own money for more.

The Chiefs allowed Rennie a fresh canvas and in choosing Wayne Smith, Tom Coventry and Andrew Strawbridge, and working so effectively with them, he upped the ante and the other franchises have followed.

One of Pat Lam's complaints at the end of his reign at the Blues in 2012 was a lack of help afforded him by his employers - Bryce Woodward was his sole assistant in his last year, helped part-time by Jeff Wilson.

Kirwan had double the coaching resource when he took over last year and the other Kiwi franchises now work along similar lines.

Todd Blackadder has Tabai Matson, Dave Hewett and Aaron Mauger alongside him in fulltime roles, Jamie Joseph has Tony Brown, Scott McLeod and Jon Preston, and new Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd will work alongside John Plumtree and possibly one or two others. The Hurricanes have been tight-lipped about the prospects of Alama Ieremia and Richard Watt, the assistants to former head coach Mark Hammett.

- NZ Herald

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