Colin Cooper in frame for Maori coaching job
Taranaki and former Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper has put his hand up for the vacant New Zealand Maori head coach role.
Under pressure Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph stepped down last night after leading the Maori team for the past three years.
Given his coaching credentials, experience and Maori background, 54-year-old Cooper was the obvious candidate to replace Joseph. He was assistant coach at the Crusaders in 2002 before taking the top job at the Hurricanes from 2003 to 2010 and will now be the front-runner to secure the position.
"I will be interested, as long as it doesn't clash with Taranaki," Cooper told Fairfax Media today. "That's my main focus. I just need to see how it pans out."
That should not be an issue. The NPC season finished in mid-October this year and the Maori are scheduled for a two-match tour of Canada and the United States in November.
As a player, Cooper went on a seven-week tour of Wales and Spain with the Maori and has always aspired to coach the team. Until now other commitments have prevented him from doing so.
"It's something I've always wanted to do. It's my culture. It's who I am, too. It would be good to experience the culture with the Maori team," Cooper said. "I'm a high performance coach so if that's the track they want to run down with this job then it may fit.
"I played for them but I haven't coached them because I was with the Junior All Blacks and the Hurricanes. It didn't fit in. If it doesn't work out with Taranaki then it won't happen but if it can I'd be interested."
Depending on the timing of Maori camps, the Taranaki Rugby Union have indicted they would endorse Cooper's wish.
"They advertise it and then we'll go from there. I'm not sure when that will happen," Cooper said.
"The Taranaki union have been very supportive of me. They'll be supportive of it I'm sure," he said. "There has to be a process. We'll have a look at how they want to operate, and how I like to operate things."
Otago coach Tony Brown could make a good fit as Maori backs advisor.