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Union's release an insult to two fine rugby men

JOHN ALEXANDER
Last updated 10:00 17/12/2012

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Mark Stewart heads the new Marlborough Red Devils coaching team announced on Friday by Marlborough Rugby Sub-Union operations manager Gareth Waldron.

Nathan Peipi will be his assistant, with Don Barrett the manager.

Congratulations to all of them and I'm sure they will put their hearts and souls into the job - I wish them well.

What disturbs me, however, is the implication in the press release issued by Marlborough rugby that last year's coaching team of head coach Steve Crockett and his assistant Peter Jones lacked both the coaching expertise and, more to the point, the passion for Marlborough rugby needed for their players to succeed.

I quote from the press release. "Mark's appointment comes at a time when it is critical that we bring a person into the Red Devils environment with proven coaching achievements and the ability to innovate and motivate a new and developing younger generation of players.

"We believe that Mark brings strong traditional heritage to Marlborough rugby and has the ability to make tough calls in relation to selection, player development and player performance.

"He will bring a much-needed emphasis to skill development and no doubt he will be able to work with club coaches at senior levels to help them understand better the key and changing requirements of good coaching in the present day.

"The selection panel felt assured that Mark understands the need to re-ignite the basic skills of the game and there is no better place than in the Red Devils environment to do that.

"The panel also commented particularly about his clear passion for the game and his proven ability to work successfully in the multicultural environment that is the MRSU and TRU Club rugby of today."

I agree, but Crockett and Jones also brought those skills to the table.

To imply that they did not have the necessary skills and passion is an insult to both them and the rugby public of Marlborough.

No-one is more passionate about Marlborough rugby than those two.

Crockett played many matches for Marlborough, cut his teeth coaching at Awatere and assisted Chris Ryan in taking the Tussock Jumpers to the 2011 grand final.

Jones has a proven record of success at club, school and representative levels.

He guided Marlborough to the NPC division two semifinals in 1998 and for many years coached the MBC team to some very good results in the Press Cup, including to their one and only grand final appearance, often in tandem with Kieran Keane.

Keane is widely regarded as one of the most astute rugby brains in New Zealand and he always enjoyed coaching with Jones because he rated his coaching knowledge highly.

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Perhaps the Red Devils selection panel didn't do their research. Last season was a fiasco as far as the sub-union representative programme was concerned.

The venue for the Cecil Shield match was altered at late notice, West Coast pulled out of their Seddon Shield match and South Canterbury defaulted their vital warm-up match at very late notice, leaving Marlborough with just four games over a four-month campaign.

Perhaps the administrators should get their house in order before they undermine the coaching merits of two fine rugby men and tireless servants of the game.

They might also have at least been gracious enough when overlooking the experienced duo to thank them in the press release for their huge commitment to the game as volunteers.

- The Marlborough Express

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