Opinion: It had to be Kirwan
Tue, 17 Jul 2012 1:10p.m.
By Jim Kayes
Pat Lam’s time as Blues head coach is over.
The former All Black loose forward who also captained Samoa has been sacked. His replacement is Sir John Kirwan, who was chosen for the job over his former All Black teammate Kieran Crowley. Both coaches were in New Zealand for last year’s World Cup, Kirwan coaching Japan and Crowley with Canada.
Lam’s demise is no surprise after the disaster that’s been the Blues season. They finished 12th and in his four years as coach the Blues have managed 26 wins, 32 defeats and a draw. There was a school of thought that with Sir Graham Henry on the selection panel Lam might have survived. The two have known each other since Lam was Henry’s Auckland secondary schools captain in the mid-1980s and Henry (after his failure at the 2007 World Cup) is a big fan of second chances.
But change was need for the Blues to have any credibility with their fans – and prospective players. Kirwan had to be the new coach. Crowley, for all his coaching strengths, is a taciturn farmer from Taranaki with no connection to Auckland and no affinity with the players. Kirwan is a south Auckland boy who played for Auckland and wanted to come home.
But as much Lam had to go, so too should the broom carry on to CEO Andy Dalton who has overseen such a mediocre time with the Blues (and Auckland for that matter). It was Dalton who tightened the purse strings this year, reducing the number of full-time coaches at the Blues to just two – Lam and assistant Bryce Woodward, while the other New Zealand franchises had three or four full-time. And it was on Dalton’s watch that Piri Weepu arrived out of shape and that Ma’a Nonu was recruited despite everyone knowing he’d be exhausted after 18 months of non-stop rugby. It was also Dalton who missed the fact Tony Woodcock was taking a rest at the start of the year.
Replacing Lam is the easy bit. Coaches are regularly sacked when their teams don’t perform, but unless the underlying issues that have plagued the Blues for too long are dealt with too it won’t matter who replaces Lam as coach, the Blues won’t improve.
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