Emotional Pat Lam takes 'final hit' for Blues
Outgoing Blues coach Pat Lam struggled to hold back the tears today as he gave his final press conference from the team's Auckland training ground.
Despite a strong finish to the season, it appeared that the writing was on the wall for Lam before he had his interview on Friday to keep hold of his job next year.
John Kirwan will take charge of the franchise for the next two years and Lam started his farewell speech by wishing the former All Blacks winger all of the best in his new job.
"First and foremost I want to congratulate John Kirwan, he is another good Marist man and former team-mate," said Lam.
"I spoke to him straight after I heard the news and wished him all of the best.
"I look at my last nine years in Auckland as Auckland and Blues coach and I am very proud of the successes that I've had, to be the only current Super Rugby coach to win two NPC titles.
"I look back at 2007 as a particular highlight, that to this day I am the only coach to win the Ranfurly Shield, the NPC title and go undefeated in the professional era.
"I am proud of the relationships that I've built up, particularly with the players, management and even you guys [the media].
"My biggest highlight was what turned out to be my last game, at the weekend.
"Not what happened on the field, that was great but we've done that through my time.
"But I went down after the game to say well done to the boys and I stood in the tunnel.
"As they came off wet and dirty, the first guy gave me a hug and said that was for you coach.
"Then I proceeded to see my whole team line up in single file rather than go to the changing room.
"Everyone gave me a hug and said a few words to me, I stood there right to the end and the last guy was Keven Mealamu and the words he gave me were pretty emotional.
"I look back with a lot of pride and I feel grateful for the time I've had and that's what means most to me."
Still continuing his leaving speech, Lam likened himself to someone who had to take everything that was thrown his way over the campaign.
"How do I feel? The analogy I have now is that it's always a battle and if I look at it in terms of being in the trenches in a war, I've been out on the front line taking shots left, right and centre," he said.
"I feel that this year particularly was the biggest war ever and I didn't mind being out the front.
"For all of that time I was out there I protected this franchise, the people in it, the team and the players.
"But it appears that I've taken the final hit.
"The same panel gave me 87 out of 100 which I was really proud of last year and I truly believe that I'm a far better coach this year after what I've gone through.
"More importantly, I know that and the people that matter know that. That's what means more to me that the players and management know that too.
"So I leave here with my head high and for JK, I want the board and Andy to give him everything he needs.
"Because ultimately, this is my home town, this is my team no matter where I am around the world.
"No matter where I go, this will always be my team and I want this team to be successful.
"I just plea that JK gets everything he needs, he's a good man."