Rugby League: Dorahy lands Wigan job: Australian is signed on three-year contract to succeed Monie

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JOHN DORAHY, the Australian named yesterday as the new coach of Wigan, will need all his legendary composure if the club, under his guidance, ever look like falling short of their recent level of achievement. The reassuring fact for Dorahy when everyone says, as they surely will, that he has an impossible act to follow is that they said exactly the same when John Monie arrived four years ago.

At 38 and with only one modestly successful season of first-team coaching behind him, Dorahy has impressed the Wigan board sufficiently to be offered a three-year contract.

'We had hoped to keep it quiet until the end of the season out of respect for John Monie,' the Wigan chairman, Jack Robinson, said. 'But we have to come clean about it now. We were most impressed with John. He's a young fellow who can do a great job for us. It must be an advantage to him that he has played and coached in England.'

Dorahy's British links do go back a long way. As a teenager, he played briefly for Leigh and 10 years later he was one of the first Australians to take advantage of the lifting of the international transfer ban when he joined Hull Kingston Rovers.

In between, he had enjoyed the best part of a fruitful career in his home country. He played for Western Suburbs, Manly, Illawarra and North Sydney, mainly as a full-back and centre, earning two Test caps and the universal nickname of 'Joe Cool' - a tribute to his unflappable temperament and nerveless goal-kicking.

Despite that Australian celebrity, he reserved some of his best rugby for Humberside, where his intelligence as a stand-off and organiser helped to keep Rovers among the game's leading clubs in the mid-1980s.

With obvious leadership qualities, it was not surprising Dorahy should be thought of as a potential coach when he ended his Australian playing days. Halifax, looking for someone to guide them back into the First Division, took him on in 1989, but the partnership met only limited success.

With Dorahy as player-coach, Halifax finished runners-up to Wigan in the Regal Trophy but failed to win promotion. The new board at a financially troubled club expressed horror at the size of Dorahy's contract and, as he puts it, 'made it pretty clear I was not being invited back for a second season'.

Dorahy was named last summer as coach of Featherstone Rovers, but they eventually lost patience with the delays caused by his job as assistant coach of the Newcastle Knights in Australia and appointed Steve Martin - ironically another candidate for the Wigan post - in his place. 'As one door closes, another opens,' Dorahy said, 'and doors don't come much bigger than this.'

Other names rumoured in connection with stepping through that door have a record of success in coaching in Australia and when Dorahy's name was first whispered last week after a flying visit to Wigan many were inclined to dismiss his chances.

He believes his approach will not be dissimilar to Monie's. 'He could leave me with a record which cannot be beaten, but can be equalled,' he said. 'I regard that not as a burden but as a challenge.' It is a challenge he will take up in June.

London Crusaders are looking for a new home after deciding, in principle, to leave the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace. The Hendon football ground is one venue being explored.