Maestro Barnes back in the Old Boys fold

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012

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Championship title No 8 is on the agenda for experienced coach Neil Barnes when he returns to coaching for New Plymouth Old Boys next season.

Barnes will assist head coach Tony Earl for the 2013 senior A competition after a 12-year absence.

Few can match Barnes's success at club level - he picked up six titles with Old Boys from 1993-1998 and another in 2002 when he co-coached with Ross Lilley. He originally did not intend to take the job but volunteered when he couldn't find anyone to take over from former assistant Phil Mitchell, who called it quits at the end of the season.

"I couldn't get anyone to do it because everyone is busy with family and work these days, so I had to step into the void myself," he said.

"Although it wasn't planned, I'm looking forward to it and being associated with the team and the club."

Barnes will continue to work as forwards coach for Canada, after former Taranaki coach Kieran Crowley was contracted through to the end of the next Rugby World Cup. That commitment takes him out of the country for the June international window near the end of the club rugby season.

He has yet to work out with Earl the areas they want to work on having only recently returned from the Canada camp after the November internationals.

"To me, it will be a case of fine-tuning a number of things," Barnes said. "A lot of the time you can have the people there who can do the job, it's just a case of that fine-tuning."

As for chasing another title, Barnes said the role was not about what he wanted to achieve.

"I just want to get the best out of the players so they can get the results they deserve."

He has been impressed by the standard of club rugby in Taranaki during the past couple of years. "I think it has been on a bit of a lift, to be honest," he said.

"Not that I saw heaps, but I saw enough to be positive about it. Obviously there are areas I think we can improve on and there always will be."

One of the biggest incentives for Barnes to return to the fold was the opportunity to "make new friends" because "you always do when you work with young men".

Earl welcomed Barnes's experience and the opportunity to learn from him.

"I've played with him and played under him and I'm sure it will be a good learning curve working with him," he said.

"I'm under no illusions about where my coaching career is, and if I can work with him for a year or two then that will be great, especially being able to bounce a few ideas off him."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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