WARATAHS attacking coach Todd Louden has revealed he was offered the top NSW coaching job and a six-figure salary as part of a succession plan that he believed had Ewen McKenzie’s blessing.
The Herald can reveal Louden was privately courted for more than six months until as late as last week by NSW officials in a draining and protracted process. From October to the end of April he went from being the leading candidate to one of two then one of four. Louden felt so disillusioned by the ordeal that he finally decided to leave Australia to coach in Japan.
When it was announced on April 1 that McKenzie’s contract would not be renewed after this year, the ferocity of the backroom politics was revealed and Louden found himself in the middle.
The NSWRU rugby committee of chairman Arvid Petersen, chief executive Jim L’Estrange and board member Ed Zemancheff that was set up to handle the search for a replacement has continually defended the way it handled the issue. However, the Louden story casts the process in a very different light.
“I was offered the job and to this day I still don’t know why they went back on that,” he said last night.
Nevertheless, after the offer was made it is apparent that affairs became untenable for Louden. He became so disillusioned with the rugby committee and its process to appoint a coach he felt he was forced into leaving NSW to take up his new coaching job with Ricoh in Japan, despite wanting to stay and having one year on his contract. Louden, who flew to Japan last night, is also adamant that he and McKenzie became pawns in a political game.
“Ewen and I were played off each other early in the process. We both realise that was the case,” Louden said. “I haven’t said too much because I have been focused on the team and their goals. I am disappointed though with how some of the candidates have distracted the team from their Super 14 winning goal through constant media application. The rugby committee have a lot to answer to that.
“I would loved to have stayed and continue the development of the team that has come a long way. I have really enjoyed working with the senior members. Seeing Phil Waugh develop into into one of the best captains I have ever worked with, Dan Vickerman evolve his game to the extent that he has – I feel he still has a lot left to give – and Lote Tuqiri’s improved play and transformation into a leader has been quite phenomenal.
“The NSWRU have a big responsibility. I hope they get it right. Moving ‘Link’ [McKenzie] on is detrimental in terms of the intellectual property he has. At the very least they should have him in as a director of rugby.”