Warriors could define McClennan's legend

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2012

Brian "Bluey" McClennan (pictured) is the sort of bloke you feel you could find yourself standing beside when ordering a drink at the local pub down the road.

Someone you would exchange a few words with and end up talking sport over that beer.

A humble guy who doesn't have the flash sayings and smell of ego that some other high-profile sporting coaches ooze.

Simply put, a true blue genuine Kiwi lad who, like many, has a passion for sport and that passion mainly stems from his days involved at the grassroots level.

A person who started off without any thought of dollar signs or the glamour of becoming a well-known figure in New Zealand sport. However, over time, success by success, he has developed into a rugby league coach who is now earning a good wage and is under a pretty bright spotlight from the New Zealand sporting public.

This story starts with him playing at the Mt Albert club under the guidance of his father Mike, but it was with the Hibiscus Coast Raiders that he rose as a true leader and a coach for the future in New Zealand Rugby League.

When McClennan took hold of the reins Hibiscus Coast sat in third division of Auckland's club rugby league competition; by the time he had finished with this club they had won the Bartercard Cup, then New Zealand's premier domestic rugby league competition.

Rugby league folk knew McClennan had something about him, but when the NZRL in 2005 decided to take a punt and name him as the Kiwis coach it drew criticism.

McClennan's coaching CV had been restricted to domestic level in New Zealand and his lack of involvement with either an NRL or British Super League side had many pondering whether he was the right man to take charge of the Kiwis.

He quickly silenced those doubters when he led New Zealand to an upset triumph in the Tri-Nations series that year after they beat Australia 24-nil in the final.

Following that, he opted to test himself in a premier club competition where he took up the head coach job with Leeds and again spun his magic when they won the 2008 World Club Challenge, beating the Melbourne Storm, 11-4.

McClennan's coaching highlights have already seen his name written into New Zealand Rugby League's files as one of the more accomplished coaches to come out of this country.

Most haven't gone close to what the 50-year-old Aucklander has achieved at the helm of various teams, right from the amateur level to the international game where it is a big bucks industry.

But let's take the rose-tinted glasses off for a bit and add something here.

Just how this likeable bloke is regarded in the wrap-up to his coaching career will be determined by what he achieves in the next year or two with the Warriors in the NRL.

The Warriors hold a special place in New Zealand sport as our rugby-mad country tries to turn heads in a competition based out of the rugby league-mad country of Australia.

McClennan has the opportunity in front of him to create more history and become the first ever coach to take the Warriors to an NRL title.

If that box was ticked McClennan would surely rival the likes of Graham Low and Frank Endacott and others as New Zealand's greatest league coach.

However, if the Warriors fail to make any real mark as he stands at the helm then what he has done previously will fade into the distance.

Professional sport is that fickle.

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