Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Boyd's rise graft over glory

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Canes role shows old ways can still foot it.
Chris Boyd has made a strong start  at the Hurricanes. Picture / Mark Mitchell
Chris Boyd has made a strong start at the Hurricanes. Picture / Mark Mitchell

Chris Boyd is a nod to the past and a beacon for those with ambitious determination.

He is a rugby junkie who was saturated with a love for the game and rode that passion through his First XV years and into senior club rugby with Tawa as an outside back. The pharmacist changed direction to run some shoe shops in Wellington while he had to also turn his skills towards managing a family holding when his father died suddenly almost 30 years ago.

In 1989, Boyd took over at the Tawa club and began the long trek to coach of the Hurricanes via stops with Wellington, the Sharks, the International Rugby Academy, Tonga and the NZ under 20 side.

He is the odd man out among the New Zealand head coaches, the only leader without international or provincial playing experience. It is a select group.

In the 21 years of Super Rugby, Graham Henry, Brad Meurant, Jed Rowlands, Tony Gilbert and Boyd are the select few who have become head coaches without first class playing experience.

The game has changed enormously since Boyd began his coaching career when club training rituals, nationwide, were still pretty much a few stretches and jog to warm up, groups split into forwards and backs for drills then a team session before a few beers.

Science was about experience, listening to others and getting in some fitness with coaches - those men who had enough time to get down to the club two or three times after work in often bleak wet weather.

When rugby became a pay-for-play occupation, it opened the way for fulltime professional coaches. Development courses began, certificates were issued and as players ended their careers, they gravitated towards teaching the game. Rugby continued to be their breadwinner.

It also seemed New Zealand clubs, provinces and franchises were seduced more when coaching applicants had an impressive playing summary - a professional career, almost like another star they could advertise to administrators and officials. That trend has continued. Take a look through the Super Rugby coaching rosters this year in New Zealand which are stacked with former All Blacks, Super Rugby or provincial players.

Their rise is clearly no bad thing as the results show this season with the Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders all making the playoffs.

There is one exception though - at the Hurricanes, where Floyd, as Boyd is known by those who go way back with the 58-year-old, has risen to the top through the old methods of hard yards and perseverance.

Boyd did not play provincial footy. Many who are dazzled by playing records and blind to practical coaching requirements, would have tut-tutted and blanked Boyd's progress. Not fancy enough, how can he handle guys with lots of test experience and so on.

There were obstacles but Boyd pushed on. He detoured to South Africa to hook up with his running mate John Plumtree, came home again to coach and wait while the Hurricanes remained an erratic combination. Last year, Boyd got his chance as the big dog, the lead man.

The Hurricanes were beaten in the final when they faltered against the irrepressible surge from the Highlanders but it was some ride from a novice Super Rugby coach.

Probably a one-off, first-year fluke many felt as the Canes began this year with two losses then a squeaky win against the Blues. Now the Canes sit as top qualifier and host a provocative semifinal against the expressive Chiefs.

We've been spellbound by the deeds of Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ardie Savea, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Wills Halaholo and the rest.

Tomorrow night at the Cake Tin? Who knows. But someone we should not ignore is Boyd, the bloke from Pauatahanui, who has once again shown you don't have to be from the old boys network or have all the fancy reputations and paperwork to pin a team together.

His involvement is a victory already, a triumph for common sense.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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