After nearly three seasons at the Blues, Tana Umaga finally has the assistant he has always wanted but if Leon MacDonald can't spark the necessary revival and help the team to the playoffs next year the former All Blacks captain will be looking for a new job.

That much has been spelled out today by chief executive Michael Redman, who answers to a board of directors who have shown faith in extending Umaga's contract by one more year but are also now demanding a short-term return on their investment.

The Blues, last in the New Zealand conference and 13th overall after only three victories in 11 matches, will again finish out of the playoffs this year. In Umaga's first two they finished 11th and ninth.

MacDonald, who helped the Crusaders to a first championship in nine years last season, will bring clarity and a direct attitude to the Blues' attack next year, but signs of improvement alone won't be enough for Umaga in 2019.


"We have to be a team that's competing deep into the playoffs," Blues boss Redman told Radio Sport today when asked how he would define success next season. "There are a whole range of factors that might determine whether you win a championship or not and clearly that's our goal.

"This club has a proud history of winning championships. That's absolutely our purpose, that's why we get out of bed in the morning, but realistically we need to be deep into the playoffs – in semifinals and finals – and competing to win the championship. Any expectation below that would be selling ourselves and our fans short.

"We'd hoped to be there now and that's why we're putting the final pieces, we hope, in place to get there next year."

This won't be a surprise for Umaga who will have come to much the same conclusions himself, but it is interesting to hear Redman mark out the 44-year-old's benchmark for success in such a public fashion.

He has effectively been put on notice and he's not the only one among the current coaches at the franchise.

Next month the Blues will begin the review of their season and uppermost on the agenda will be deciding the future of Umaga's two assistants Alistair Rogers, who is in charge of defence, and forwards coach Steve Jackson.

Both will be under scrutiny and of the two it is perhaps Rogers who is the most vulnerable. He will have been heartened by the Blues' defensive effort against the Hurricanes in last weekend's loss at Eden Park but overall it hasn't been good enough.

The reinstatement of Umaga for one year, and signing of MacDonald for three, could pre-empt a change. Skills coach Dave Ellis has already signalled he is leaving after this season.


MacDonald, nicknamed Rangi during his playing days for his similarities to the fearless boy in the Footrot Flats cartoons, said: "Obviously there are other parts of the puzzle that need to come together in terms of the actual coaching group and where it all fits, but what I've done at Tasman is attack – driving the attack – so every time we get the ball that's my portfolio, to a degree. It's what I'm passionate about."

Convincing MacDonald to shift his family from Blenheim to Auckland shows how attractive the Blues remain for coaches, and should they have to search for a new head coach next year, MacDonald will come into the frame, but so too will some more high-profile Kiwis such as Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland, both of whom are off contract after next year's World Cup.

Redman said: "Hopefully Tana is here for longer than just one year, but if that isn't the case then of course it is a really positive thing for us to have a really strong internal candidate, but equally it is our responsibility that if there is a vacancy we look at all the options available."