New Canterbury coach Glenn Delaney aware of 'huge' expectations
Don't expect to see new Canterbury coach Glenn Delaney falling over himself if he guides the province to a 14th National Provincial Championship (NPC) title later this year.
Unlike predecessor Scott Robertson, who three times busted into a breakdance after winning championships as head coach, standing on his head and rollicking around a field isn't Delaney's style.
"Handshaking is probably a good area for me," Delaney, who took over for now Crusaders coach Robertson in December, said.
"You can't replicate or mimic his approach. It's 100 per cent him and that's what makes him a great bloke. I promise there will be some idiosyncrasies of me that turn up from time to time, but breakdancing is probably not that area."
Depending on which way you look at it, Delaney has arguably the easiest or hardest job in New Zealand rugby.
The 43-year-old has taken over a dynasty - defending champions Canterbury have won the NPC eight of the past nine years - and are quickly closing in on Auckland (16) for most titles won.
But with success comes a stack of expectation, something which the former London Irish player and coach knows he signed up for when he landed the job and decided to return home.
"Huge. But the expectations are from me," Delaney said. "It's great, a wonderful opportunity and challenge to take a team that's been arguably the most dominant NPC team in the country's history.
"We've got to grow a team continually that's been growing continually. It's not a case of standing still because we've won eight from nine. We're out to perform this year and to enhance it and improve it."
Delaney's appointment last December, and sister Marianne Delaney-Hoshek's promotion to Mainland Tactix head coach last month, means the siblings are in charge of two of Canterbury's major teams.
Born in Timaru and raised in Christchurch, Delaney was educated at St Andrew's College and left New Zealand as a 19-year-old to play in Japan, where he met English wife Claire.
Predominantly a lock, who played for Linwood and represented Canterbury B before heading overseas, he went on to play for Nottingham and London Irish (66 caps) in England.
After hanging up his boots in 2004, he fell into coaching, starting as Nottingham's forward coach and later becoming director of rugby.
In 2012, he became London Irish's forwards coach, before he was promoted to head coach and later rugby operations manager. He stood down last July, after the club restructured following relegation from England's premiership.
Delaney said he always harboured thoughts of one day returning to New Zealand to coach, but wasn't so sure a suitable opportunity would arise.
"I never seriously thought over the period of the last 13 years I'd been coaching that it would come up. Just because in the past it's always been someone from in and around the area has moved in and off they've gone and it's worked really, really well," he said.
"You never lose the desire. I think we all still want to be All Blacks. And we're all still available. It doesn't matter what stage of life we're at, if Steve [Hansen] wants to pick me, that's great.
"I've gone away and had some other experiences, perhaps I can bring something back from what I've learnt and can add to what's already here."
Delaney has brought in former Crusader and Canterbury midfielder Nathan Mauger as his skills coach, while Joe Maddock is the backs coach and former Canterbury under-19 coach Mark Brown will assist him with the forwards.
They're busy preparing for Canterbury's first Ranfurly Shield defence - against Meads Cup champions Wanganui - on June 21.
Delaney last week named a 31-strong squad, which he said is made up of the best performing Christchurch club rugby players so far this season, for the match, and a scheduled second defence against Mid Canterbury in August.
Canterbury's official squad for the Mitre 10 Cup won't be named until after Super Rugby wraps up, but the red and blacks have lost Jordie Barrett (Taranaki), Jack Goodhue (Northland) and Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) for next season.
"That's three very experienced backs. So we've got to look at some guys to step forward and take on those roles," Delaney said.
Working from Christchurch's Rugby Park, Delaney will get plenty of chances to pick Robertson's brains as he enters the first season of his three-year deal.
What happens during those three seasons will shape Delaney's future, not that he's getting ahead of himself.
"I think what you do is try and do the very best job you can and other things happen by consequence. I look at this as a custodianship, as long as the province is happy to have me doing it, I'm all in.
"The fact is, if you do a good job good things can happen. You never use anything as a point to get somewhere else. This is a big job and it's a big job reflected world wide."
Delaney's wife and four children - Alex, Hannah, Josh and Charlotte - will move to Christchurch in July.