Waratahs

Waratahs sack McKenzie – Official

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Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie’s contract will not be renewed beyond this year’s Super 14 season, the state’s rugby bosses announced on Tuesday.


McKenzie’s five years at the helm will end in July even if the Waratahs win their first title in the southern hemisphere provincial competition, New South Wales Rugby Union chief executive Jim L’Estrange said.


“Ewen’s situation does not change for the rest of the Super 14 season, we still have a competition to win and we are right in the mix,” he said.


“Put simply Ewen has had five great years with the Waratahs and this decision allows both Ewen and NSW Rugby to move forward from a strong foundation.”


Assistant coach Todd Louden, who helped guide the South Africa-based Bulls to the championship last year, is tipped to take McKenzie’s job, although the Auckland Blues’ coach David Nucifora is also reportedly in the running.


McKenzie, a former World Cup-winning prop, has been under pressure since the Waratahs finished 13th last year.


This year the Waratahs have won four of their six matches and are ranked eighth, but have been criticised for lacking enterprise in attack.


“Jim and I have been talking for some time about the future and we had a really good meeting yesterday and I’m satisfied that we can both now move ahead,” McKenzie said.


“We told the team before training yesterday, then went right on with the job preparing (for the Blues on Saturday night).


“In an ideal world, you’d like to go on and on but this is professional sport and I’ve been in the job longer than anyone else so I’ve had a good innings.”


Three years ago McKenzie steered the Waratahs to the final, which they lost to the Crusaders, and then to the semi-finals the following season.


McKenzie is the Waratahs’ longest serving coach having presided over 72 matches but equals Dave Brockhoff and Barney Walsh with five years’ service.


McKenzie and NSWRU Chief Executive Officer Jim L’Estrange reached an amicable agreement yesterday about the Head Coaching role.


‘We are absolutely committed to Ewen finishing the job this season.


NSWRU Chairman Arvid Petersen underscored the legacy that McKenzie will leave behind since taking over the Waratahs after the 2003 Rugby World Cup when he was Assistant Coach of the Wallabies.


‘Ewen’s impact on the Waratahs and the game in NSW has been dramatic,’ added Petersen.


‘There was a strong cultural shift under his leadership. One that that ended a long standing losing streak to the Reds in Super Rugby, broke new ground by beating the Brumbies in Canberra and saw the Waratahs reach the Final in 2005 and semifinals the following year.


‘Off the field Ewen has been instrumental in getting back to the clubs, designing the IBM Centre (NSWRU new headquarters), adding structure to the professional game and promoting the team through the media and corporate business.


‘He has served NSW well over a long period in coaching terms and we wish him well in the next phase of his career.’


McKenzie was typically pragmatic following the agreement not to renew his contract past this season.


‘The good thing about this announcement today is that it puts to bed the innuendo in the press that has unfairly distracted the team for weeks.


‘Now we can concentrate on playing Rugby.’


McKenzie’s most satisfying moments involve development and the creation of Wallabies.


‘I was only looking at a photo of the 2004 development tour squad the other day and it amazed me to see how many of those players went on to play Super Rugby and Test football,’ McKenzie reflected.


‘The likes of Al Kanaar, Wycliff Palu, Cameron Shepherd, Benn Robinson and Lachlan MacKay have gone on to become Wallabies ‘ that’s very satisfying.


‘I’m also proud to see the likes of Rocky Elsom, Stephen Hoiles, Sam Norton-Knight, Brett Sheehan, Leroy Houston and Tatafu Polota-Nau all pull on the gold jersey during my time here.’


McKenzie, who lost just two Super Rugby matches against the other Australian sides during his reign, said he is now free to pursue other opportunities but not before completing his 2008 mission.


‘We’re giving this comp a real crack and I don’t mind being underdogs,’ McKenzie said.


‘I want to move on from this announcement and get stuck into the Blues this weekend. This is a big game for the Tahs but it’s just as big for the Blues so you’ll be missing something special if you’re not at the SFS on Saturday.’


McKenzie will name his line-up on Thursday.


NSWRU CEO Jim L’Estrange said the search for a coach in 2009 has begun with a result expected at the end of April.


‘Today is all about Ewen and his legacy so I don’t want to go into detail about the recruitment of a new coach other than to say the process is underway,’ added L’Estrange.


‘I am engaging several Rugby experts, former Wallabies and coaches in the process before making a recommendation to the Board of NSW Rugby before the end of the month.


‘As Ewen’s contract is up this year, numerous applicants have been proactive in lodging expressions of interest and we will be making our way through them in the coming weeks.


‘Due to the uneven global season many of these coaching decisions cannot wait until the end of competitions.’

 

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