The final pieces of the Warrriors coaching jigsaw are falling into place, with Auckland Vulcans coach Ricky Henry yesterday confirmed as one of Matthew Elliott's two assistants for the 2013 season.
Coming in the week of Tony Iro's regrettable departure, it could be seen as a surprising appointment, as Henry has no NRL experience and the Vulcans finished well out of finals contention last season. But, given the options available, it is a wise move as it ensures a local presence on the coaching team. If Elliott had opted for two Australians as his assistants, it would have been the first time in the history of the Auckland club that there were no Kiwis on the coaching staff.
The second assistant, who will be from across the Tasman, is still in negotiations, which are expected to be confirmed in the next few days.
Henry, 34, is also the New Zealand under-18s coach and has had a series of coaching positions at club and representative level since ending his playing career. After being involved in the Warriors' development system from 2008-2011 - the last two-and-a-half years as the club's development coach - Henry took over as Vulcans coach in the NSW Cup in February.
It was a tough season - the 2011 grand finalists were often competitive but finished a disappointing 11th in the 13-team competition.
Henry recognises the promotion has come quickly but says he is prepared for the task.
"It's a huge honour to be given this opportunity," says Henry. "The Warriors gave me my big break in the first place with the development squad and to now have a role working with the NRL side is everything I could want. I've been fortunate to benefit from coaching the Vulcans and also the New Zealand under-18s, roles which allowed me to remain in contact with a lot of Warriors players. There are also a lot of players still with us who came through the development programme when I was involved."
For his part, Elliott says Henry made an instant impact on him: "The first time I met Ricky was to discuss the Vulcans and his role with the team," says Elliott. "The way he connected purely on a personal level was so impressive from the outset but he also came across powerfully with his skill-set in both rugby league and professional terms."
Elliott adds that he "instantly saw him as a key part of the NRL coaching staff and the club's vision", but his standing probably also increased with Iro's departure.
Henry began his coaching education with Richmond, taking the club to success in the Auckland competition before being appointed by the Warriors in his development capacity. In 2011 and 2012, he coached the New Zealand under-18s, sharing a two-match international series with vaunted Australian Schoolboys last year and winning both matches on a short Australian tour last month.By Michael Burgess Email Michael