Rugby league: Little for Lydon to choose between

Dave Hadfield sees a lack of clear contenders for post of Great Britain coach
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The Independent Online
Joe Lydon, the Rugby League's technical director, will this week recommend who should take charge of coaching Great Britain against Australia in November.

Although one clear favourite has emerged, Lydon has been kicking around three names. He was always a resourceful player, but cynics will say that coming up with three candidates represents one of his more inventive performances.

It has not been an easy task as the game in Britain is dominated by overseas coaches. The last British-born coach to win the Championship was Doug Laughton with Widnes in 1989, and only Laughton, with the Premiership the following year, and John Joyner, with a Regal Trophy for Castleford in 1993-94, have taken any major prize since.

Since no British candidate has the form on the board, why not do what so many other sports have done and look beyond the country's boundaries?

Shaun McRae, an Australian who has already helped New Zealand, declared his availability earlier this season, although his case would be stronger if St Helens' form had not collapsed so dramatically.

The coach with the recent track record is Matthew Elliott at Bradford, and then there is John Monie, kicking his heels in Australia, and looking for the right route back into the British game.

Lydon's instincts are against a foreign appointment, however, not least because the arguments that would rage afterwards would be a severe distraction from the job. That is not to say, though, that there will not be a role somewhere in the team set-up that Lydon favours for someone born outside these isles.

Anyone who noted the contact made with the former Great Britain coach Malcolm Reilly during Lydon's recent visit to Australia might have made some deductions. Those are also likely to be wide of the mark; Reilly is surely too far divorced from current form in Britain, even if he could be enticed away from one of the best-paid jobs in rugby league at the Newcastle Knights.

So who does that leave? The man in pole position is Andy Goodway. He is close to both Lydon and the league's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay - whose board of directors will have to endorse the choice - is thought to have the right, analytical approach, much of it learnt from Monie, and is doing the game a favour by holding the fort at Paris.

The argument against him is that, even by contemporary standards, he has achieved little at club level. He was sacked by Oldham after a run of defeats this season, although no one would have done much better with the material to hand.

Goodway is close enough to the top job to have spoken to possible back- up staff during his trip back to England with Paris last week, although his original idea of a No 2 has gone back to the drawing-board.

The main alternative is Eric Hughes, although his brief track record at Wigan is mixed and his true area of expertise is with young players, rather than the established ones he would have to mould together at short notice.

One who will not get the job is Andy Gregory, despite Salford's healthy first season in Super League. There are too many in the game who fear that Gregory's style of man-management, which owes more to the Alex Murphy generation than to the technocrats who now prevail, would be a leap backwards.

But Gregory is clearly doing something right. In the absence of a technical type with over-powering credentials, there is an argument for the high- risk strategy. If we were to lose to Australia again, Gregory would at least make it fun.