Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Lam needs to breathe again in a new venture

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Blues coach Pat Lam. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Blues coach Pat Lam. Photo / Brett Phibbs

How gratifying to see the messages getting stronger from the Blues camp.

Nine defeats out of 10 starts. Panic, what panic? It's time to take stock, regroup, chill a little, perhaps give Pat Lam more time to work with his players next season.

Say what?

This is a reworking of the All Blacks theory about the World Cup. You learn more from your losses, etc, you grow from the rotting stench, etc.

If that's the case, Lam and his crew will have first-class doctorates now with six games still left to tick off on the crumbling Super 15 calendar.

The All Black panel was able to persuade their employers that the 2007 World Cup quarter-final collapse in Cardiff was an aberration and they would rise stronger from that awkward production.

Henry, Smith and Hansen created a broad political clout when they delivered a one-in, all-in manifesto against some patchy All Black coaching opponents.

They also had an international record which showed just six defeats in 48 tests.

Four years on, they scraped in by a solitary point in their World Cup rerun last October at Eden Park, which naturally earned the entire group widespread accolades. It was a superb result for them, the All Blacks and the country but hardly a conclusive endorsement for coaching longevity.

Lam has been with the Blues for four seasons and his record shows 24 wins, 29 defeats and one draw.

Other stats confirm the lack of substance and all-round decay. For example, the Blues have scored 16 tries and leaked 31 this season; their lineout wavered once more against the Hurricanes and they missed a high percentage of their tackles.

Now there are suggestions a new head coach might retain Lam in a secondary coaching role with responsibility for the forwards.

Lam is very personable, a man who has endured an enormous amount of criticism and worn it with grace.

His demeanour rarely wavers, he still has a gentlemanly grace.

He needs a break - a clean break - from this tangle. He may well be suited to work as an assistant coach, but not with the Blues. And not next year.

Lam needs to breathe elsewhere, to sit back, take his talents to another venture and regroup.

Lam does not have the haunted look of Jed Rowlands, who was appointed above his experience with the Blues in 1999, but he is battling, and this can't be good for him spiritually, mentally and professionally. A new Blues head coach would increase the risk factors at the start of his tenure if Lam stays in the coaching set-up next season.

Blues chief executive Andy Dalton and the board need to acknowledge that, though believing that will occur is difficult as the Blues have not had a distinguished playing record in their associated tenure. Super 15 is supposed to be a professional environment, not just a paid job but one which demands impressive competence.

The Blues need to recognise that. Bandaging Lam up for another pop in some role next season is no elixir.

Coaching is part selection, part organisation, part instruction.

Those three areas in 2012 have a Swiss cheese look about all of them, and Lam is the head guy.

About 120km to the south, in Hamilton, Wayne Smith is part of a coaching group collecting buckets of praise for their work with the Chiefs.

It is worth remembering Smith was All Black coach in 2000-01 before being replaced because of his, and NZRU's, uncertainty about his future.

He went to Northampton, stitched together a stronger CV, and three years later returned as a very successful sidekick to Graham Henry.

That sort of strategy may benefit Lam and the Blues much more than trying to find some other dignified mechanism.

- 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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