Queue forms at Crusaders as Gibson exits

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 18/10/2012
Daryl Gibson
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
RESIGN OF THE TIMES: Daryl Gibson has quit his role as Crusaders assistant coach, unhappy to stay on as a defence coach in a restructured coaching unit under Todd Blackadder.

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Daryl Gibson's sudden departure has resulted in ex-All Blacks Leon MacDonald and Aaron Mauger being the leading contenders to join the Crusaders coaching staff.

Gibson yesterday resigned after expressing disappointment about Todd Blackadder's recent decision to demote him to defence coach following four years as the boss of the backline.

Now Crusaders head coach Blackadder, who last month began advertising for a new attack coach to reinvigorate a backline he believed had underperformed this season, has to decide whether to recruit a defence and attack coach or complete a U-turn and employ one assistant as a backline coach.

Mauger, who has assisted Tabai Matson with Canterbury this season, had already applied for the attack coach's job.

MacDonald, who has been the Tasman backline coach for several seasons, is understood to have also applied but is mulling over whether he wants to relocate his family from Blenheim to Christchurch.

Matson, who was also the Crusaders skills coach this year, has reinforced his case by the way his backline has performed in the NPC.

Despite having a habit of recruiting former Crusaders players since taking over in 2009, Blackadder has maintained he is prepared to accept all-comers.

His former All Blacks team-mate Tana Umaga, who has reinvigorated Counties-Manukau this season, would be worth serious consideration if he applies.

Umaga, who missed out on the Munster head coaching job to Rob Penney earlier this year, has got the Counties attack firing and is respected for his ability to communicate with players.

When contacted by The Press yesterday Umaga wouldn't comment on whether he would apply, with a spokesperson stating he was concentrating on this weekend's NPC championship semifinal against Otago.

Jeff Wilson, who worked as a skills coach under Pat Lam and is assisting Liam Barry with North Harbour, will not return to the Blues under new coach John Kirwan next season.

The ex-All Blacks wing was a brilliant player and is understood to have sound technical knowledge. But the poor results of the Blues and North Harbour are not compelling.

Although Gibson has cleared his desk at the Crusaders after telling Blackadder and chief executive Hamish Riach he didn't want to work as a defence coach, he denied there was any bad blood between himself and the organisation.

"I had a beer on Friday with Todd and Hamish, we had a chat and obviously I laid my cards on the table and said ‘hey, this role is not for me'. It was very amicable but it is something I have thought long and hard about."

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Although Gibson has chosen his words carefully, there can be little doubt he was not happy about losing his job as backline coach.

He still believed he had more to offer the Crusaders' attack: "Yes, absolutely. You would have to speak to Todd but obviously that was his decision and that was something I respected. While they offered me that role [defence coach], I had a clear choice whether to accept that or move on."

Blackadder, however, was determined that change was needed. Frustrated at watching his All Blacks fail to fulfil their potential at Super Rugby level and probably under heat from the Crusaders board to win a title after the franchise's biggest drought in its history, Blackadder was adamant.

"There hasn't so much been a falling out [between us]. Daryl probably felt it wasn't something that excited him."

Manawatu Turbos coach Jason O'Halloran has ruled himself out of the running.

- The Press

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