RUGBY by JAMIE TROUGHTON
Matt Te Pou doesn't want the vacant Bay of Plenty rugby coaching job - but he'd love to help groom the successful applicant.
Several reports suggested the Whakatane-based former New Zealand Maori coach - who took the Steamers in 1993-94 - was a possible 11th-hour addition to the lineup being interviewed today.
However, Te Pou denied those reports, indicating his farm and business consultancy work would prevent him from holding down a fulltime coaching job for an NPC season.
"If they wanted a bit of a hand, I'd keep an eye on the Bay but more so as a mentor rather than a coach," he said.
"I'm a Bay man and at the end of the day I want to see Bay go well. I'd think about but I'm certainly not in a position to give the time required to take a team through the Air New Zealand Cup.
"Maybe in a mentoring role where you'd pop in once a week and be available by phone - I could consider something like that, although I don't know if that's even going to arise."
Last year's assistant coach Andre Bell is the warm favourite for the job vacated by Vern Cotter in March, applying with former All Black Kevin Schuler as his running mate.
Cotter is leaving the Bay and the Crusaders to take up a role with Clermont in the French first division.
Mt Maunganui coach Sean Horan is another replacement contender, and Te Pou's involvement was suggested as a figurehead to guide a younger coaching pair through the season.
Te Pou signed off in style after 11 years association with the New Zealand Maori side last year, courtesy of a 19-13 win over the touring Lions.
New Zealand Maorihave played the Lions seven times, the first time in 1930. Te Pou's side was the first to beat them, and he led his team to 33 wins from 38 games overall.
He was subsequently awarded a New Year Honour, and since then, he's restricted his coaching to a weekly session with his Whakatane Marist club with no firm plans to get back into it fulltime.
In fact, the fulltime aspect is the part which is turning him off.
"The lay of the land now is quite different. It's full-on, and basically a full-time job, with all the technology and video analysis and the amount of time that's required for the modern job."
"I'm definitely not in a position to do that. I would think the best outcome is to find someone who's very keen to come through the ranks and maybe aspire to higher honours.
"The Bay of Plenty team is definitely a team which could take you there because they've proven in the last few years they can make a contest against any provincial side."
Te Pou also reiterated his concern over the state of club rugby - last week he unsuccessfully challenged incumbent NZRU director Paul Quinn for the Maori seat on the board, and used his speech to lament the deterioration of grass roots rugby.
"When we finished our presentation, a lot of chairmen came up to tell me they had similar problems at that level. It's a fact of life the heartlands are screaming out for help.
"Amalgamation is one way through - maybe we have got too many clubs - but that's a short-term answer. A review of club rugby is definitely called for."
Meanwhile, Bay's fragile locking stocks have taken another blow - Te Pou's son Alamoti, a regular Steamers development lock for the last two years, has shifted to Counties-Manukau.
The junior Te Pou has got a job as a marketing executive for Mighty River Power, and has already been included in the Counties-Manukau squad.