Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Why Pat Lam must go

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Blues rugby coach pat Lam.  Photo /  Dean Purcell
Blues rugby coach pat Lam. Photo / Dean Purcell

Memo Blues. It's time.

The stagnation cannot be allowed to continue.

Start thinking clearly and make some decisions before the franchise heads into an uncontrolled tailspin.

Talk to the public, connect with your constituents or those who still hold the faith after the miserable 12,111 turnout last week at Eden Park.

Chief executive Andy Dalton grizzled after the second-round loss to the Chiefs, promised and demanded better, but since then there's been a hush or platitudes about the staff and players working hard.

The only defences that have drawn tighter have been off the field. Meanwhile the results chart festered. The interlocking jigsaw of chief executive, board, coaching group and players is broken, the edges are chipped, the cohesion blurred.

That frayed confidence translates into patchy form, the convictions of the coaching staff and players has seaped away with each defeat. There will be spasmodic flares of hope but the damage is done, solutions for next year's campaign must be the priority.

There was enough rugby firepower midweek at Eden Park to produce some solutions. You could bet if Sir Frederick Richard Allen, had another wish before he farewelled his favourite arena, he would have demanded they get on with it, butt heads and make something happen.

Next year marks a decade since the Blues last title triumph. Since then a couple of fourth place finishes; this year, tail-end charlies.

Coach Pat Lam is one of rugby's gentlemen, but he is not cutting it as a coach, not with the Blues. They need a different supremo next season.

However under the current system, those decisions are not made until reviews have been completed in August.

By then many coaches have taken up deals for work next year and beyond, and players have promised their services to different outfits.

Lam is a dignified man who needs help to work through this crisis. He can also be noble in the midst of his troubles.

He should publicly signal his intentions now to move on next year, a move which would allow the Blues to advertise and sift a range of replacements.

Meanwhile the Blues board, reduced when national selector Grant Fox stepped aside last week, should play hardball with their future coach and playing roster.

There are enough rugby brains in the region to help.

Why not co-opt an advisory panel of men like Maurice Trapp, Murray Wright, Glenn Taylor and Gary Cunningham who have criss-crossed the franchise and tasted the playing, coaching and administrative angles.

Want "bigger" coaching names? Try John Hart, Graham Henry, Bryan Williams, Wayne Shelford or Sid Going.

Get them to offer structural ideas to help the ailing franchise.

It's been too cosy for too long at the Blues. You could cite Piri Weepu's fitness issues and Ali Williams' poor form as evidence this season.

The Blues need to build a group who crave success, who want to perform in the Super 15, they need a staff who make serious demands on their ability. Selection is as vital as the coaching. The Blues have to be ruthless in their choices and equally demanding about their entire organisation.

Offer players annual performance contracts and build a proud group, not an also-ran mob who look too cosy about their performances.

From this mess the Blues need to be professional. Dalton and the board need to connect with their supporters, to tell them their plans and how they aim to fix the troubles, otherwise 12,111 might seem like a bumper crowd.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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