Rugby League: Goodway fills the Monie gap at Wigan

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The Independent Online
JOHN MONIE, the most successful coach Wigan or any other British club have ever had, is out of work. Monie, whose first four-season reign from 1989 is the stuff of sporting legend, has paid the price for his return failing to bring the club the same dominance. His assistant, Andy Goodway, steps up and will be in charge for the first time for Sunday's match against St Helens.

A statement from the club yesterday confirmed that Monie had not been offered the contract extension for next year that he had been seeking. That, said the club's chairman, Peter Norbury, was in order to allow Goodway, who is also Great Britain coach, to take over the top job that had always been envisaged.

"The decision has been taken that the appointment of John Monie as coach for the 2000 season would not have been consistent with the long- term plans being developed by the club," the statement said. "It was certainly a difficult decision to make, but it made no sense to delay the appointment of Andy Goodway."

Monie was given the option of moving upstairs to a management position, but he has rejected that because he still sees day-to-day coaching as his strength. He said: "It was fair enough that the chairman didn't want to offer me a contract for next season. I didn't have a problem with that, but I was a bit shocked when he said that Andy could take over the club and take it to the next level. I would have thought that winning the grand final last year was the next level. Maybe we achieved too much, too early."

Monie said that he had spoken to the players and told them to carry on with the job under their new coach.

Few have ever matched the way he carried out that role during his first stint at Wigan, when he guided them to the double of the Challenge Cup and the First Division title in all four seasons. Faced with a volatile mix of temperament and egos in the likes of Andy Gregory, Ellery Hanley and Shaun Edwards, he fashioned a team that was as cohesive as it was talented and became perhaps the best club team the game here has seen.

He was a failure at the Auckland Warriors, however, and was sacked midway through the 1997 season, which set up his return to Wigan last year.

Monie had an immediate effect on Wigan's declining fortunes, steering them to the Super League title with a cup final defeat by Sheffield the only cloud on the horizon.

But, with less depth in his squad and more than his share of injuries, this campaign has been moderate. A cup defeat by Leeds has been followed by five losses in Super League, making it far from certain that the reigning champions will qualify for the play-offs this year.

Gates have declined to the point at which there were only 6,000 at Central Park for the game against Sheffield earlier this month, and last Friday's 13-4 home defeat by Leeds was the final straw. The club's directors, plus its main shareholder, Dave Whelan, went into immediate session, muttering that something must be done.

That something leaves Goodway with the job he has wanted. Combining it with the part-time duties of coaching Great Britain is not thought to be a problem.

Meanwhile, it would be surprising if there was not some interest in taking Monie to the London Broncos to try to repair their recent disarray.

Despite the change of coach, Wigan are closing in on signing Chris Chester and Gavin Clinch from Halifax, whose South African centre, Jamie Bloem, has failed in his appeal against the severity of a three- month ban for biting.

By contrast with Wigan, the quiet hum in the air at Headingley yesterday was that of a smooth transition.

Dean Lance, who will take over as Leeds coach from Graham Murray after this season and is spending a month familiarising himself with the club, said that he did not intend to make drastic changes.

"There will be players available in Australia when they reduce from 17 teams to 14 and I have some in mind," he said.