His illustrious career boasts 77 games for the Bay Steamers, a Super Rugby title with the Crusaders and a test for the All Blacks — but it's his latest role that Mike Delany says may be his toughest.
The veteran first five has retired from playing the game and as previously hinted in the Bay of Plenty Times last year, the Rotorua born and raised athlete is about a month deep into his new assistant coaching role with the Bay of Plenty Steamers.
"I was still weighing up what I was doing, if I was playing and stuff like that so I suppose it's come over the last sort of month," Delany said.
"It's been really good, definitely a new challenge and probably a bit harder than actually turning up and just putting your boots on. A lot of planning and a lot of work goes into things but it's been a good process and a real eye opener and I've been learning from the other coaches involved. It's been a good experience so far."
He's not the only new addition to the Steamers' coaching team ahead of this year's Mitre 10 Cup campaign.
Also working with Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan as assistant coaches are Mike Rogers and Marty Bourke, who coached the Bay of Plenty Under-19 men's squad to the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's first national provincial title in 42 years when they beat Canterbury in the final of the Jock Hobbs Memorial National tournament last year.
McMillan will be the defensive coach, Rogers will focus on the scrum, ball into contact, the breakdown and collision areas, while Bourke and Delany will focus on attack, kick strategy and counter-attack.
The 2018 season was less than satisfactory for the Steamers. They finished fifth in the tier 2 Championship competition, ending their season in 12th out of 14 teams in the Mitre 10 Cup competition.
They will no doubt be aiming to do better this time round and looking ahead to the 2019 season, Delany has confidence in the side they are working with.
"We've been really lucky to have quite a few guys involved with Super Rugby teams so they'll bring a wealth of knowledge back and they'll be better for it. There's a really strong core of players that have been training for a little while now so it's looking promising and we're really confident with the squad that we've got at the moment and no reason for us not to perform at a high level this year," Delany says.
Bay rugby veterans Mike Delany and Tanerau Latimer retire
"We've got a pretty good group at the moment. There is quite a bit of training going on behind the scenes. I think we're tracking at a really good pace at the moment and I think we've got a really strong squad."
With a professional career spanning more than a decade, Delany has played under a long list of high-quality coaches from all over the world. One of the most memorable was former All Black Tony Brown, who was the assistant coach of the Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights, which Delany signed with in 2011.
"I enjoyed having Tony Brown, there was quite a few, I like his approach to the game and being innovating and stuff like that. I enjoyed having him as a coach."
Running a team himself, he wants to bounce ideas around with other coaches, and players. Coming out of the game just last season, Delany brings an understanding of the pressures involved as a player.
Last season he returned home to the Bay after his Crusaders Super Rugby team were crowned champions. He played his 77th match in the blue and gold hoops but had to go under the knife to repair a pectoral tear suffered in the match against North Harbour on September 16.
He's now looking forward to his new role as a coach, which is something he's been eyeing for some time.
"I'm really grateful for the opportunity Clayton has given me. It's something I've always wanted to get into and being fresh out of the game, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what players are going through and the way the game is being played.
"That was definitely something I've been keeping an eye on throughout my playing career and trying to understand the coaching side of things from a player's point of view. You obviously learn bits and pieces from the coaches you have and pick up things along the way so I've been conscious of that throughout my career."
Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan is looking forward to the input the new coaching staff will have to the team.
"I'm confident that they bring some energy and new ideas that will help us. Their work ethic and their eagerness are really transparent for other people to see and I'm sure it's rubbing off on the players," McMillan says.
"They've come through a traditional coaching pathway, coached at club level, age grade level sat and been on numerous coaching courses. So, they've done their time and they've also had some success," McMillan said of Rogers and Bourke.
Delany has played under a long list of high-quality coaches from all over the world and has accumulated a lot of knowledge which has accelerated his ability to come into this role as a skills specialist, McMillan says.
"But his most recent exposure was down with the Crusaders, last year when they won the Championship. Those experiences are not easily replicated even for the hardest working coach. I think it brings a pretty good balance to our coaching team."
"We've been working really hard for the best part of six months to establish a good rapport and get really aligned on where we think the team needs to head and how we're going to go about achieving that."
Bourke says he has learnt a lot moving up to the Steamers.
"I'm loving the environment. This is what you aspire to do. I enjoyed the challenge of what came with coaching the Under-19s. I think the biggest part of that success was built on them believing in themselves and playing with a bit of freedom. A lot of those players have moved up to the Steamers and it's great to see them furthering their career."
Meanwhile, a Bay of Plenty selection (Bay of Plenty WASPS) will play a 3X40 min match between Counties/Manukau and Wellington at Moore Park, Katikati on July 27, at 1.30pm. The Steamers then play a pre-season away match against North Harbour at North Harbour Stadium on August 3, at 2pm.
The team's official Mitre 10 campaign starts against Otago in Tauranga on August 11 at 2.05pm.
2019 Steamers Management:
Head Coach: Clayton McMillan.
Assistant Coaches: Mike Rogers, Marty Bourke and Mike Delany.
Manager: Wayne Brill.
Player Development Manager: Ati Aaifou-Olive.
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach: Thomas Stebbing.
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach/GPS Analyst: Connor McNeill.
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach: Scott Joblin.
Physio: Paul Cameron.
Head Analyst: Koichi Kinoshita.
Assistant Analyst: Hannah McDonald.