Wynne Gray on sport

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Choice of coach crucial for ailing Blues

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Making one decision about the Blues coach is simple.

There has to be a change.

The franchise has been haemorrhaging this season and but for a smart marketing deal offering a multi-match package, the decline in spectator numbers would have been far worse.

Sponsors and investors must be eyeing the coaching choice with some apprehension.

Pat Lam has done his time, he's had four years to make an impact and that has not occurred.

To reinvest in him would be folly and would further alienate those in the region.

It would also contradict one part of the job description for the head coach.

On and off the field he has to lead the Blues "to a standard of excellence, demonstrating significant improvement over each season, enhancing the reputation of the Blues team and the franchise".

This year's horror run of results and style contradicts those requirements.

Unless Skype interviews have been done with some coaches overseas or there are a few others who have slipped into the mix, the choice appears to be between Kieran Crowley or John Kirwan.

You sense there is something about Kirwan. There's an excitement that exudes from him, from the players who come into contact with him and spectators keen to see how he deals with this task.

Heaven knows the franchise needs some spark.

It has been a basket case for some time. It has hardly raised any ripples or been a market leader since Peter Scutts left as chief executive in 1997.

There has been one Super rugby title since, seven coaches and three chief executives.

The next Blues coach must be allowed to create his vision, he cannot be handicapped by the blazer brigade or those who live by the "in our day" mantra.

The level of politics in rugby remains a shameful handbrake on progress.

It is the product of a provincial system where each union fought its cause, but those sort of nit-picking, closed-mind, self-interested ideas have no place in the Super 15 arena. It simply isn't professional.

The Blues have an image problem, they cannot scout talent within their region or attract players to the franchise. The damage has to stop.

A new coach is needed and with him a strong manager who will not stand for some of the shoddy practices of the current mob.

A director of rugby should take over the running of the franchise and co-ordinate the business, while others are left to deal with Auckland rugby.

The Blues are at the crossroads - they are limping while other codes are growing. This decision about the next coach is crucial and will set the tone for rugby in the region.

- NZ Herald

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