Hurricanes are hands-on in hunt for new coach

MOVING ON: Mark Hammett announcing he will leave the Hurricanes at the end of this season.
MOVING ON: Mark Hammett announcing he will leave the Hurricanes at the end of this season.

The Hurricanes hold their coaching destiny in their hands for the first time as they start the search for Mark Hammett's successor.

Wellington Lions coach Chris Boyd and Chiefs assistant Tom Coventry confirmed yesterday they're interested in the top job, while Manawatu's Jason O'Halloran said he'd be keen to be involved in a some capacity.

Whoever gets the nod will be the first Hurricanes head coach to be appointed by the franchise since private investors were granted a management licence in 2013.

It's a subtle, but important difference that means the club's investors, led by the Wellington Rugby Union and including some prominent local business people, will drive the interview and appointment process.

In the past that task has fallen to the New Zealand Rugby Union, who as the coach's primary employer, held sway when it came to the final call.

When Hammett took over from Colin Cooper at the Hurricanes in 2011, despite having no head coaching experience, it was widely seen as a NZRU appointment to prevent a promising coach heading offshore.

That cloud will not hang over whoever takes over from Hammett in June.

Hurricanes and Wellington chief executive James Te Puni said the appointment remained a collaborative one with the national body, but confirmed the franchise would take a greater role.

"In this case it's the Hurricanes who will be leading, but the NZRU have already been involved in the discussion and will be involved in endorsing the process and the timeline," he said. "

"It's a shift they have supported. It reflects the new licensing arrangement where you have [other] people involved who want to drive the club and the team forward.

"We are leading the process but I don't envisage we'll be in a situation where we prefer a head coach that they don't endorse . . . it's exciting for the Hurricanes."

Te Puni and Hurricanes chairman Brian Roche will be on the interviewing panel together with a representative from the NZRU, most likely high performance manager Don Tricker.

One CV they will definitely see is Boyd's with the Wellington Lions, the New Zealand under-20s coach confirming he would put his hat in the ring.

It remains unclear who he would pitch as his assistants, but former Hurricanes midfielder O'Halloran said yesterday he remained passionate about the franchise and would consider a support role if approached by an applicant.

It has emerged that the one-test All Black has been working closely with first five-eighth Beauden Barrett over the past month, a period that coincides with a dramatic upward curve in form.

"I'm not interested in having a crack at the head coaching role," O'Halloran said. "My expertise is more on the tactical and skills coaching stuff. Potentially if it was the right person and someone I respected I'd be keen."

O'Halloran said he hadn't been sounded out or talked to anybody about any role at the Hurricanes next year, but said he had some close ties with the playing squad.

That's because he was the New Zealand under-20s skills coach under Dave Rennie in 2010 and Mark Anscombe in 2011 when Boyd was the assistant.

Those sides included current Hurricanes Barrett, Julian Savea, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Blade Thomson, TJ Perenara and Brad Shields.

"They are a great bunch of kids," O'Halloran said. "Hammett will leave the playing roster in a very good state for somebody."

The Dominion Post