Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: The Blues need Henry

Sir Graham Henry is needed in his old stamping ground, says Chris Rattue. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Sir Graham Henry is needed in his old stamping ground, says Chris Rattue. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Sir Graham Henry for the Blues. Now.

The World Cup-winning coach is needed in his old stamping ground to nurse a dishevelled side through to respectability or perhaps inspire a miracle recovery act in what is shaping as the Blues' most disgracefully disastrous season ever.

The Blues board must perform radical surgery on the fallen giant, starting with the immediate sacking of coach Pat Lam. They could leave Bryce Woodward in the assistant role, and tug on Henry's heart strings should he need any persuading. Henry, who won two Super titles with the Blues and assisted them to their last triumph way back in 2003, would come in as an interim head coach before a giant cleanout takes place at Eden Park before next season.

Among those who need to be shown the door are the ineffective chief executive Andy Dalton, but I'd also be shipping out a few old hands like Ali Williams. Even the wondrous Keven Mealamu looks burned out.

In defence of Dalton, he has accepted the mounting criticism in the right light, saying it shows people care and he acknowledged that his whole organisation must share responsibility. But Dalton's tenure has failed to put the franchise on the right track, as was required.

The contracting system also deserves scrutiny, because Lam's contract - and with it Auckland's aspirations - is in the hands of the NZRU. And as became clear at the Chiefs - where Kremlin favourite Ian Foster was retained despite years of poor results - the top brass sometimes operate to their own, contrasting, agenda.

Lam has to go, and right now. This is unlikely to happen, this being rugger, old chap. But a new coaching set-up should be put in place before the match against the Sharks on Friday night. There's nothing wrong with blood letting either, when appropriate. And now is appropriate.

We've all had enough. The loss to the Melbourne Rebels was downright embarrassing, leaving this rotten, misfiring outfit with one win in six and at the foot of the Super 15 ladder. Apart from a stonking scrummaging display from Tony Woodcock, the rest was not within a bull's roar of what should be expected from a team out of this city.

The Rebels were a Super 15 joke until recently and play in a state where the citizens follow rugby with all the vigour most of us reserve for dog racing. Victorians live for Aussie rules and many would hardly know they had a professional rugby team in the city. In contrast, rugby is the No 1 sport in Auckland, featuring a past laced with glamour.

The rot goes way back, before Pat Lam arrived. But Lam's mistakes have been glaring, including the failure to install a commanding first five-eighths or ensure his star troops turn up fit and firing going into the season. There isn't even any star quality to fall back on.

Apart from prop Charlie Faumuina and in-and-out No 10 Gareth Anscombe, none of the emerging talent looks good enough for what should be Blues standards. This team has to be bursting with All Black potential, but instead it is just bursting with lame individual intent and a few old-timers going through the motions.

Picking over the carcass for too long is a waste of time for now, except to make clear that this is a carcass. More than three years of going nowhere must come to an end. A new voice is needed, to kick this team into shape pronto.

Henry is the one powerful character who might perform a miracle.

Who better than the snarling knight and Auckland old boy, whose bark might get the Blues to bite? He could also be persuaded back in the interests of resurrecting rugby in the country's major city, grand scheming that would appeal to him and something that should be a major plank in the NZRU's plans.

If Henry shuns a brief comeback, or is too busy advising every other Tom, Dick and Harry, then let Woodward get on with the job and find him some assistance. Change for change's sake will do in this instance, because it's as good a bet as any in what are dire circumstances.

Get over yourself, Tiger

Tiger Woods was a disgrace at the Masters. Dealing with yet another poor shot, he flung his club to the ground and then kicked at it. Even those of us who have supported Woods can only despair at such brattish behaviour.

I don't recall seeing a professional kick out at his club. Woods needs to get over himself, and show the same respect that others did when he was roaring away from the pack leaving their careers in his wake.

After watching his tantrum - not the first - his increasingly forlorn hope of overtaking the Jack Nicklaus record of 18 major victories became a comfort. On this form, Tiger will remain stuck on 14 but not stuck in our hearts.

Phoenix could do better

The A-League playoff match between the Phoenix and Perth Glory was a thriller, but that should not obscure the fact that the Wellington-based side has finished the season empty handed again. Coach Ricki Herbert is doing an okay job and the Phoenix - usually inspired by Paul Ifill - can play soccer that is good to watch. But the time is fast approaching when more should be expected from a team with major advantages as the only A-league side in this country.

- NZ Herald

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