Rugby League: Monie's legacy a monument not millstone for Dorahy: Dave Hadfield reports on the coach entrusted with ensuring Wigan's rugby league pre-eminence

 

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The Independent Online

After 5pm this afternoon, the only way is down for Wigan. If, as everyone outside St Helens fully expects, Wigan win the Stones Bitter Premiership at Old Trafford to set alongside the Lancashire Cup, Regal Trophy, Championship and Challenge Cup, their new coach, John Dorahy, will inherit a team whose record will be impossible to live up to.

No side has ever won all five major domestic trophies in a season; none will again, for the simple reason that there will be only four of them in future.

Dorahy sounds almost relieved that the game's search for a satisfactory fixture list has led to the Lancashire Cup's abolition. 'At least I know now that I can't win all five next season,' he said from his home in Newcastle, New South Wales, as he prepared for the job that many more experienced coaches would not touch with the longest bargepole on display at the Wigan Pier Heritage Centre.

In sheer weight of silverware, Dorahy will be a failure next season. Fortunately for his sanity, there is a different way of looking at it and the clue to that way is in the parting message of his predecessor, John Monie.

Ask Monie what gives him most satisfaction now that he is leaving Wigan after four years and he will not, mercifully, reel off a litany of trophies won. He will say that he is leaving a club who were strong and healthy when he arrived, stronger and healthier on his departure.

'I agree wholeheartedly with that way of measuring success,' Dorahy said. 'I can't win any more than John Monie has done, but I can add something that will improve the players and keep the side ahead of the competition.'

Dorahy recognises that Wigan are not that far in front of the opposition and need a constant input of something fresh and revitalising. That something next season could be the brand of sports psychology that Dorahy has observed in operation at North Sydney and Newcastle and in which he is a firm believer.

The extra edge could also come from new players. It seems clear that the first area in which age will catch up with the squad is in the centres and, although the names of rugby union's Scott Gibbs and Jeremy Guscott have been doing the rounds, a newcomer is more likely to come from league ranks.

The two best young centres in the country both come out of contract soon and both, as luck would have it, are in action at Old Trafford today. Paul Newlove, who has just become the first centre to score 50 tries in a season, will play for Featherstone against Workington in the Divisional Premiership final for Second and Third Division clubs, while Gary Connolly will line up for St Helens.

Newlove, for all his ability, is an archetypal home-town boy who may view a move across the Pennines as others would the prospect of taking up residence on Mars. Featherstone are also desperate to keep him; hence a pounds 750,000 valuation aimed at frightening Wigan away. Saints' attitude to Connolly's future is more equivocal and they may prefer to let him go rather than meet his contract requirements.

Dorahy is keen to keep some things just the way they are. The three players on the import quota - Frano Botica, Sam Panapa and Andrew Farrar - will do him fine for next season, he says, despite his being ideally placed in Australia to shop around for alternatives. Videos of Wigan's young players in reserve games have also brought a warm glow to what pass for winter's nights in Newcastle.

All the same, Dorahy could need all his psychology next season. Wigan will not have to lose many matches for him to be conveniently cast as the villain, the man who made it all go wrong. It is something to ponder as he waits 12,000 miles away for the score from Old Trafford.

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