Time's up for Pat Lam.
He clocks off this season in Canberra on Saturday and that should be a fullstop on his Blues coaching career.
A four-year stint showing 26 wins, 32 defeats and a draw is nowhere near the weight of results needed to retain his job.
John Kirwan is the person to grab the Blues. An ambitious, passionate coach with strong connections to the region, Kirwan has enough international experience mixed with the forceful personality needed to generate a franchise revival.
However, the political intrigues which bedevil rugby in the Auckland region may yet conspire to deliver Lam another term.
That outcome will hinge on a push for Lam to be kept on, in much the way Graham Henry persuaded the NZRU in 2007 that he, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith should continue after the disaster of that year's World Cup. The Herald understands that idea has been one of a variety of concepts offered in the rugby halls of whispers, as an answer to the Blues woes. Another idea was to appoint an interim coach until other coaches of greater pedigree were off contract but that theory seems to have withered.
Kirwan has decided he will not compromise if he wins the job. He wants the job on his terms with a coaching group which would include his assistant in Japan and former All Black skills coach Mick Byrne.
The 47-year-old Kirwan wants a clean cut from this year's coaching group while the NZRU hints that the administration of the Blues and Auckland may need to be separated as the franchise woes continue.
Crowley is the third contender and may yet end up the beneficiary of a stalemate between Kirwan and Lam - the expedient option.
The NZRU input in the decision will be crucial as it pays for the coach, assistant, manager and a medical official, while each franchise can add as many as they want to the staff list but has to pay for them. An interview group will grill Lam, Crowley and Kirwan tomorrow, as the last process in their hunt for the solution to the issues which have dogged the Blues since their 2003 success.
Inquiries to the Blues and the NZRU drew no details about the make-up of the interview panel or the contenders, but the Herald understands Blues chief executive Andy Dalton, chairman Gary Whetton, NZRU reps Graham Mourie, Don Tricker and former All Black coach Henry will evaluate the prospective coaches. Connections among the candidates and panel are lengthy and varied: Henry has been a long-time mentor to Lam, while Dalton, Whetton, Crowley and Kirwan all played together in the same All Black sides.
Lam would not be drawn on any running mates yesterday but he would probably look at Bryce Woodward, Jeff Wilson or Mike Casey, who have worked with him this season. He has guided the side to sixth, ninth, fourth and a lowly end this season after three wins and 12 defeats.
Crowley has coached Taranaki, the NZ under-19 side to 2007 global success and Canada since 2008, while Kirwan was a Blues assistant in 2001, then coached Italy from 2002-5 and Japan from 2007-11.By Wynne Gray Email Wynne