A push is increasing among a core of NSW Rugby powerbrokers to encourage the state union to do an about-face and immediately reappoint Ewen McKenzie as Waratahs coach.
If they don’t, then they risk losing him not only to French rugby and Stade Francais, with whom negotiations continue, but to a wider market of top foreign teams looking for coaches, such as Munster (Ireland), Bayonne (France) and even the Crusaders, who are expected to advertise the post on June 1 after Robbie Deans leaves to join the Wallabies.
Rupert Guinness writes that the move to keep McKenzie at NSW has brewed ever since the Waratahs have firmed as finals contenders, while the search for his replacement continues to drag on.
NSW Rugby chairman Arvid Petersen and chief executive Jim L’Estrange have repeatedly said they will not backpedal on the decision not to renew McKenzie’s deal after this year.
But a consensus is building outside the NSW Rugby football committee chaired by board member Ed Zemancheff that the delay in the search and success of the Waratahs should be a strong enough message to tell them their decision is wrong.
McKenzie’s supporters also cite the fact that his success in coaching the Waratahs to a home semi-final against the Sharks from Durban on Saturday could provide NSW Rugby with $500,000 to $700,000 in revenue to keep the union in the black.
The coach’s understanding was that after last season’s 13th place by the Waratahs, they had to make the semi-finals if he were to keep his job. That he has done so, and handed NSW a potential windfall, has strengthened the case for his reappointment.
Last night McKenzie said he is willing to discuss the possibility of staying, even though – since it was announced on April 1 that his contract would not be renewed after this year – up to seven staff in the Waratahs and NSW Academy have declared they will be leaving.
“I would be prepared to meet and have a discussion,” McKenzie said. “Obviously, a lot of the team environment has changed, and not by my doing. But the job as I see it now is not about keeping 2008 going. It is a rebuilding job and renovation.”
If the NSW Rugby doesn’t pursue McKenzie, others will. He has been offered the job at Stade Francais, but is still negotiating a component to accommodate his family concerns.
If those negotiations fail, it would be a bizarre twist if McKenzie then applied for and succeeded in getting the Crusaders job – especially after seeing out the Super 14, where the Waratahs and Crusaders will meet in the final if they win their semi-finals this week.
McKenzie would be a good fit for the six-time champions. They would be impressed with his record of having taken the Waratahs to two semi-finals and one final in five years.
And his ability to turn around the Waratahs from 13th to second place this season would also raise their interest.
NSW Rugby is due to name the new coach on May 26. The four candidates so far are former Wallabies attack coach Scott Johnson, Waratahs defence coach Les Kiss, Eastwood head coach Chris Hickey and Junior Waratahs coach Joe Barakat.Tweet