9 May 2012

Pat Lam's job up for grabs - is John Hart the Blues' saviour?

 The time has finally come. After a string of horror results for the Blues, Pat Lam has effectively been given his marching orders. Ok maybe that is slightly misleading...he hasn't lost his job quite yet, but he has been told to re-apply for the post. That in itself is pretty damning.

Considering his record, his odds don't look too promising. This isn't a case similar to Graham Henry following the 2007 World Cup, where he successfully re-applied, fending off Robbie Deans in the process. Henry had a magnificent record over a long period of time and just one blip in a quarter-final. The Blues in comparision have been atrocious for weeks now and the board are clearly testing the water here to see just who is available and who is willing.

Stagnating Blues

A few years ago, getting the Blues hot seat was probably one of the best jobs in NZ rugby. It still is to a degree in terms of prestige, but if one was to take the reigns now, there would be a lot of hurdles and challenges to overcome. It's not simply a case of putting 15 players on a pitch. The organisation, put simply, is stagnating. The fact that the board seem to be placing all of the blame on the Blues' stuttering form on Pat Lam shows a lot of cowardice too in my opinion.

Andy Dalton (pictured on the left) should be considering his position, given the flailing franchise's decision making over the last few years. Player transfers, training facilities, the regeneration of Eden Park....there have been a few duds it would be fair to say. Compare the Blues to the Highlanders with their brand spanking new stadium and the Chiefs with their magnificent training facilities and you get a snapshot of their failings.

Pat Lam has remained dignified among all the mud slinging though and for that he should be applauded. There have been many factors behind the Blues' fall from grace this; injuries, All Blacks returning in bad shape, the strength of the NZ conference and a general loss of confidence. Now though, I think it's probably a good move for both parties if Lam goes in all honesty.

NZ Coaching Exodus

So, who exactly is out there? Lets get the frist one out of the way; Graham Henry. Let's be honest there is no chance of him taking over. He has committed to Argentina for the next two years, helps out around the Super Rugby franchises and has his own venture going with 'the rugby site'. Blues' fans may be calling out his name, but he has his hands busy.

Warren Gatland is coaching Wales and there is no chance in hell he's going to give that up any time soon, given the level of success he is having and the fact that he is coaching at International level. A move to the Blues would be a step down. There have been a few Kiwi coaches who have left NZ shores recently too as opportunities it had seemed, were lacking.

Rob Penney of the Crusaders (pictued left) has booked a one way ticket to Limerick as he signed to coach Irish provincial team Munster next season following years of ungratified success with Cantebury.

As a side note, I believe Mark Hammett is doing a stellar job with the Hurricanes but it must have been quite soul destroying for Penney to be overlooked for the job given the vast difference in terms of weight of experience between the two candidates. Four consecutive titles with Cantebury vs a short spell as assistant at the Crusaders and yet he still missed out. Penney's hand realistically was forced.

Former Auckland coach Mark Ancombe has also turfed off to Ireland, where he will be taking charge of Ulster. Given Anscombe's links with Auckland, he may have had a chance but that boat has now sailed.

The other big names have been offshore for a few years and I can't see them returning for a job at the Blues. It has been well publicised that Clermont's coach Vern Cotter would only return to NZ to coach the All Blacks. He indeed applied last time out. Leinster's Joe Schmidt would most probably feel that he can build a more accomplished C.V. in Ireland too. Two Heineken Cup winners medals (if Leinster beat Ulster) doesn't look to shabby.

Return of a Fallen Giant

In terms of NZ based coaches, one could possibly say former Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay coach Peter Russell has a chance but would he be given the opportunity? Blues Assistant coach Bryce Woodward has already been mentioned but given the fact that his name is also slightly tarnished by this season, I think is chances are slim to none. The Blues need a complete makeover.

Which brings me to a rather intersting candidate; John Hart. Remember him? He led Auckland to years of provincial glory, was an AB's assistant when NZ won the inaugral World Cup in '87 and was the first coach to lead NZ to a series win in South Africa in '96.

The rugby played under his tenure in '96/'97 was arguably the best I have ever seen. I still re-watch some of those games to this day! Of course, he also was coach when NZ suffered THAT shock loss against France in a World Cup semi-final.

Would he be willing to step into the hot seat at Auckland, or is the pain and abject humiliation he suffered at the hands of NZ fans following '99 still to fresh? Given the success he had as Director of Football at NZ Warriors in rugby league since then, perhaps he is just the man the Blues need. He is also a free agent after resigning from his post in December last year. Would he be up for the challenge though? That is the question that needs to be asked.

Who do you think is the best fit for the Blues? Please leave any ideas in the comments section below.


  1. Anonymous09 May, 2012

    Man John Hart coming back would be a turn up for the books eh.

    Anything is possible with the Blues though!

    Still thing Graham Henry would be the best option. Hart's been away for a while now...

  2. Bring back Buck!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. @Tusi. Haven't heard that in a while!