Rugby League: Monie returns to Central Park as Wigan try to rediscover greatness

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The Independent Online
The most successful coach in British rugby league history will today return to the scene of his triumphs. Dave Hadfield awaits the second coming of John Monie.

Wigan will today confirm the re-appointment of John Monie as the club's coach - a role he relinquished in 1994 after four hugely successful seasons.

The new Wigan chairman, Mike Nolan, admitted yesterday that Monie had agreed a two-year deal to assume control at Central Park once more.

It was news the board had hoped to suppress until the current Wigan coach, Eric Hughes, had been told the bad news. Hughes, who had been in charge for nine months, has been out of the country on holiday, but is now thought to be back. Attempts to contact him were, as of last night, unsuccessful, but the whole business will give him a dismal feeling of deja vu.

The former Great Britain centre was sacked at St Helens less than two years ago to make way for one Australian, Shaun McRae, and is now being ditched - after a season that ended with Wigan winning the Premiership - for another.

But Monie is - even to those who resent the extent of Antipodean influence in the game here - no ordinary Australian and no ordinary coach.

His four seasons saw Wigan dominate all domestic competitions and set new standards in the game here. He has never been a believer in returning to the scene of former successes, but his experiences since have left him with something to prove.

His reign as the inaugural coach with the Auckland Warriors - for whom he left Wigan - was a disappointment and ended with him being sacked this season.

Since then, it has looked inevitable that he would return to Britain, where his reputation remains sky-high, but Leeds or projected franchises in Wales or Scotland were alternative destinations.

The new regime at Wigan, which bailed the club out of financial crisis last week, has moved swiftly to ensure that he will stage his British come-back at Central Park.

"He is the best there is," Nolan said. "He will be left to get on with the playing side and, if he needs players, the money will be available."

Despite rumours to that effect, Wigan will not appoint a high-profile co-coach, like Great Britain's Andy Goodway, to work alongside Monie. Simply bringing back the man most closely associated with their great days of the recent past is enough.