Friday, December 07, 2007

Graham Henry: The Great Redeemed

Hot overnight news sees the NZRU re-appointing All Black head coach Graham Henry after New Zealand's World Cup flameout in early October. The board voted 7-1 in Henry's favour.

Henry's impressive W-L record with the team saw him preferred to Crusaders coach Robbie Deans, who is very unlucky, and is expected to be offered the Australian Wallabies head coach position.

A couple days ago the formidible Inky drafted a potent commentary that made as good sense as anything I've read about the AB coaching brouhaha since that brutal Saturday in Cardiff:

The All Blacks coach should be a forward coach anyway, in my opinion. When the current forward coach has an All Black pack delivering 75 percent of possession, this should be a one-horse race.

Assuming no miracle and it's not Steve Hansen who's appointed, I seriously don't care between Henry and Deans. [...]

But I also assume that, like most forward coaches, he is very patient. As is Inky... if we never get my Dream Team of Steve Hansen and Gordon Tietjens, it won't be because I haven't nominated them.

Henry was awarded a two-year contract. (Surely there'll be hell to pay if Deans succeeds with the Wallabies and takes the Bledisloe Cup back across the Tasman.)

Many All Black supporters in New Zealand are disappointed at the decision to retain Henry, but the chastened coach finally conceeded that his controversial reconditioning program, that saw All Blacks pulled from the Super 14 competition --"In hindsight it was a mistake," he says -- should go some way to assuaging fans venom.

The withering criticism of the reconditioning program and the standdown that cost Super 14 fan support, tv viewership, sponsorship mutiny and a great loss of dollars, was not Henry's doing alone. The NZRU were equal partners in approving that reconditioning program and have to assume some blame in the matter. Undoubtedly a big part of their decision to reappoint Henry was as much to protect their own skins. Dylan Cleaver believes the decision was entirely a political one.

OTOH the reappointment might be, as former AB Bull Allen remarked earlier this week, a sign that New Zealand is maturing and becomng more realistic. Henry's All Blacks, after all, sport a 42-6 record under his tenure, with Tri-Nations titles, Bledisloe Cups, a Lion Series sweep and more silverware sitting in the NZRU trophy cabinet. Alas, previous campaigns, including 1999 when fans were spitting at failed RWC coach John Hart's racehorse - despite Hart having delivered the All Blacks historic first-ever series win in South Africa only a couple years prior - were black eyes for the nations' rugby supporters.

Now it's time for New Zealand to lose their World Cup fixation.



At 9:23 PM , Anonymous Michael said...

I'm glad Henry was reappointed, and I hope Deans gets the Aussie job as well. He's a good coach.

A 12.5% loss rate for Henry over four years really should have secured him the job, it's an outstanding record. Even if it were twice that size it'd still be great.

Winning every game just isn't plausible, there's always going to be some incidence of losing, and to be honest I don't much care which specific games make up that proportion.


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