Sir Graham will command respect with Blues

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 11:28 12/08/2012
Graham Henry
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ

COUP: The inclusion of Sir Graham Henry, as technical assistant, the same role he held the last time the Blues won a title, in 2003, is a major coup.

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Lessons have been quickly absorbed at the Blues.

They didn't have to look far to realise this year's penny-pinching, tunnel-vision approach to management was backward, just over the Bombay Hills, in fact.

Results alone suggested they got it wrong.

Only those at the head of this troubled organisation can explain the thought process behind cost-saving measures that left axed coach Pat Lam with just one full-time assistant for the majority of the disastrous 12th placed season.

The gaffe was rectified too late. Jeff Wilson received an upgraded contract for the final three games of the campaign. The turnaround was dramatic. Even then, there were three, not four minds, conglomerating.

Lack of resources and support were Lam's major gripes this year. He said as much in his departing message, urging the Blues to give Sir John Kirwan "everything he needs". 

The Chiefs' willingness to wisely invest in their complimentary four-pronged management provided the blue-print. It is now likely to be replicated further north.

Next week, the Blues will confirm Kirwan's management team. It is expected to double from two, to four.  

The inclusion of a second Knight, World Cup-winning coach Sir Graham Henry, as technical assistant, the same role he held the last time the Blues won a title, in 2003, is a major coup. Like mastermind Wayne Smith at the Chiefs, Henry will command immediate respect, much-needed discipline, empathy from the players.

Henry will also fill the local knowledge breach that Kirwan may have lacked after plying his trade for eight years in Italy and Japan.

However, there will be questions as to when the alliance was formed. Remembering, Henry sat on the appointment panel.

Understandable frustration from New Zealand's four other franchises may be voiced in private. They could miss out on Henry's valuable mentor services, which he offered this year, given his commitments to the Blues.

All Blacks skills coach Mick Byrne will perform that role for the Blues and speculation is Kirwan's other assistant from Japan, former Australian rugby league player Grant Doorey, will complete the quartet.

Former All Blacks flanker turned Bay of Plenty head coach Kevin Schuler quashed links to him being Blues forwards advisor, saying that was "wide of the mark".

The coaching team of Kirwan, Henry, Byrne and, possibly the largely unknown Doorey, would signal a significant shift in philosophy.

At the start of this year, Blues hierarchy decided to save money by not replacing defence coach Liam Barry, who moved on mentor North Harbour.

Belt tightening was the reasoning.

Lam and backs coach Bryce Woodward were forced to oversee all aspects of the team, with Wilson hired on a part-time basis while juggling a commentary role with Sky Television.

The Blues have seen the light. After consultation with Lam, Kirwan has convinced the Blues to open their bulging coffers - despite this year's absent crowds they again posted a profit - and fork out for two of the four salaries.

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The New Zealand Rugby Union pays the head coach and one assistant.

Kirwan is making the right moves. His bolstered management team is a step forward. Attention will now turn to player recruitment with the domestic competition likely to throw up more than a few prodigies capable of catching Kirwan's eye.

- Fairfax Media

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