Rugby League: Monie undaunted by task ahead

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The Independent Online
He is four years older and has a few more grey hairs, but it was almost like old times as John Monie returned to the club he made close to unbeatable.

Dave Hadfield saw the man who made Wigan synonymous with winning arrive back at Central Park.

In his usual understated way, the quiet Australian they sometimes call The Iceman had a chilling message for British rugby league.

"I'm a better coach now than the one who left here four years ago," he said. Considering his record of 14 major trophies during his four seasons in charge, he has given himself quite an act to follow.

"It's a bit like coming home," he said. "I always thought that if I came back, it would be to Wigan, although I'm not kidding myself that I'm coming back to a side with Gene Miles, Andy Gregory and all those great players.

"We've slipped in recent years and there are new kings of the castle. My job is to try to get Wigan back to the top."

The radically changed situation at Central Park, where Monie will know less than half of the players, means that there is no danger of feeling that he has come back to do the same job again.

Although he feels that there is enough talent, there will be some judicious recruitment - as well as the departures of some not able to meet his rigorous requirements.

His experiences since leaving Wigan ensure that he returns with a hunger re-sharpened by the frustration of his failure at Auckland. The club sacked him halfway through last season - the first time that has happened to him in 17 years as a coach.

That gives him some sense of the way Eric Hughes will be feeling today. The Wigan board delivered the bad news to Hughes yesterday morning - via a note on his car windscreen.

It was a miserable day in Wigan, but there was a noticeable lack of the crowds of fans who welcomed Monie's first arrival in 1989. That is symbolic of the task ahead; he has to win not only matches, but also win back hearts and minds.

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