McKenzie doesn't have the numbers to keep Waratahs job

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The push to reinstall Ewen McKenzie as the Waratahs coach hangs in the balance, with half of the NSW Rugby board against reviewing the move, two supporting it and two undecided or yet to take a position.

As of yesterday, the breakdown for-and-against McKenzie was yet to swing in his favour. But that two of the eight board members believe the April 1 decision by a NSW football committee to not renew his contract needs a review shows there is division. The board's final stance will not be revealed until it is called to vote on the recommendation from the three-man football committee on who should be the next coach.

Chaired by board member Ed Zemancheff and including NSW Rugby chairman Arvid Petersen and chief executive Jim L'Estrange, who is also on the board, the committee has said it will not change its position.

That committee has also deferred the naming of the successor to McKenzie until May 26.

McKenzie's departure is not likely to be reviewed by the Zemancheff-led football committee, despite the fact he has guided NSW to a home semi-final - their third finals series in his five-year tenure - that could give NSW Rugby a $700,000 windfall.

Instead, McKenzie may coach overseas, as he has been offered a deal with Top 14 French club Stade Francais. Other clubs looking for coaches include Munster (Ireland), Bayonne (France) and the Crusaders (New Zealand). If he doesn't get a coaching job, McKenzie could resume his trade as a town planner.


The NSW board could still overrule the football committee's recommendation if the numbers call for it. With two board members seeking a review, the issue will inspire some passionate debate.

The positions of the two board members who have not yet made their opinions known - one of whom is Waratahs second-rower Dan Vickerman - will be intriguing. Vickerman is concentrating solely on the Super 14 campaign that reaches the crossroads on Saturday against the Sharks in the second semi-final. NSW players are frustrated the coaching issue has raised its head again at a time when they feel the focus should be on the Sharks.

Influential former board member Alan Williamson agrees, saying yesterday he was not prepared to comment other than to say he is "delighted that this talented squad of players and coaches now is within sight of the ultimate prize that they so readily deserve".

Tight-head prop Al Baxter said the side was trying to put the coaching issue to one side.

"If we are not concentrating on the finals, then there is something wrong with us," he said before training at Victoria Barracks yesterday. "We haven't even talked about it, [or] thought about it. It is all about the finals."

However, in-form Waratahs No.8 Wycliff Palu offered his support for McKenzie, saying: "He has been a big part of my career. If he is around, that is good for me. I enjoy playing under him."

Former Queensland and North Sydney Bears rugby league player Tony Rea has been linked with a coaching position at the Waratahs. Rea, 41, has spent 14 years in England as a player, captain, head coach and administrator with the London Broncos and Harlequins.

Sydney Morning Herald