You can hear the laughter from Christchurch, Dunedin, and beyond.

And fair enough. The rugby joke is on us, no doubt about it. Auckland's rugby problems are virtually world famous.

Laugh no more, however, because an end to the wisecracks is nigh.


Hand on heart, I believe the Blues are primed for a revival, particularly if coach Tana Umaga can find a way to step aside and allow his two new assistants to take charge.

Leon MacDonald and Tom Coventry (presuming Coventry's appointment is confirmed) ARE the people to turn this colossal failure around. I've got absolutely no doubt about it. Hopefully, Coventry will put pen to paper.

MacDonald has emerged as a successful coach out of the Crusaders' empire, Coventry was central to Dave Rennie's revolution at the Chiefs. If the sum equals the parts then the Blues are finally on the right track.

If coaches know what they are doing, are connected to the best information, then there are enough great players to go around in this country. The Brodie Retallick story - a quiet Chiefs acquisition which turned into a legend - is wonderful proof of that.

The brave new world is upon us in 2019 if Umaga can remove himself from the day-to-day decision making. The MacDonald/Coventry chemistry then becomes front and centre of this equation.

A familiar sight for the Blues under Tana Umaga - opponents celebrating. Photo / Photosport
A familiar sight for the Blues under Tana Umaga - opponents celebrating. Photo / Photosport

The Blues 2018 season ended at the hands of the Crusaders in the manner it had become accustomed to — total humiliation. There was a time long ago when a near 40 point drubbing would have caused an outcry, but sadly no more.

Call this a hunch, but the Blues have the coaches to raise this sunken vessel from the deep.

What 2018 proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, is that Umaga doesn't have the head coaching goods. Another shabby defeat to the mighty Crusaders was as inevitable as Christmas Day turning up on December 25.


Umaga, with a bizarre one-year extension potentially prolonging this agony, needs to move into an "overseeing" role that allows MacDonald and Coventry to get into their work.

That should start with the new assistants running the player recruitment and sackings.

Those who see Auckland itself as the problem ignore how professional sport works, with all due respect.

Franchises around the world don't care where their players come from, and nor do the fans.

The Brumbies' heyday was a fine rugby example of this, and the Melbourne Storm league dynasty rolls on despite Victoria's sporting allegiances, not because of them.

The Crusaders are not exactly homegrown, and to take it down a level, Taranaki didn't win the NPC title a few years ago on local legends.

The Blues have sent for North Harbour coach Tom Coventry - hopefully he will sign up. Photo / Photosport
The Blues have sent for North Harbour coach Tom Coventry - hopefully he will sign up. Photo / Photosport

MacDonald and Coventry are steeped in what works in this country. It will be interesting, in particular, to see what influence the duo has on loose forward wrecking ball Akira Ioane — it could be the making of him, which could go a long way to making the franchise.

Will MacDonald and Coventry click and endure — that's the question? And it is a big question.

"Tommy is his own man, he's a head coach," Waikato rugby identity Steve Gordon told Martin Devlin on Newstalk ZB this weekend.

"I can understand the Blues wanting to get hold of him — he's a fantastic coach, great man manager. I don't know how it is going to work, don't know what the mix would be, what they do with Tana.

"It could be uncomfortable for a few people next year ... because he is his own man, has his own way."

Great coaches don't necessarily make great comrades. For a fairly recent example, Crusaders cohorts Robbie Deans and Steve Hansen didn't last too long, parting at a rare franchise low point.

For now, the Blues are being led by a lame duck head coach in Umaga, a possible de facto boss in MacDonald, and are likely to be joined by a rising force in Coventry.

At least this mad mix would have little to live up to. The Blues bar is so low the Eden Park worms could waltz over it.

Yet despite outward appearances and potential inner friction, the future hasn't looked this bright for a long time.