Rugby: League speculates after Monie is sacked

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The sacking of John Monie as coach to the Auckland Warriors yesterday will suggest to many that he has a one-way air ticket to England in his top pocket. In Britain, unlike Australasia, his reputation is still sky- high.

In four years at Wigan, Monie became the most successful coach the game has ever seen. It has been a very different story in New Zealand. Given virtually a free hand in recruiting players for a new club, Monie's results have gone from moderate to disappointing to - with last weekend's defeat by lowly North Queensland - near disastrous. His contract was up at the end of this season in any event; this week, the board made it clear that they did not want him to stay that long. His assistant, Frank Endacott, has taken over, at least until the end of the season.

To those who admired his cool, commanding presence at Wigan, Monie's failure at Auckland is a puzzle, but one to which there are some clues. From the start, he sensed an anti-Australian feeling and there is certainly a vigorous seam of anti-Super League sentiment amongst traditionally minded league fans in New Zealand.

Monie gravitated away from what he does best - coaching rugby players - and into the politics of the club. He also began to despair of his ability to get the best out of the Warriors' large contingent of Polynesian players.

His great ally, Ian Robson, lost his job as chief executive earlier this season. If that weakened his position, then it was further undermined when the decision was made last week not to retain Denis Betts, a highly paid import from Wigan whose form for Auckland has been criticised.

So, it was not a major shock when the axe fell. The question is what he does now. If getting another coaching job is his immediate priority, then his prospects are a good deal brighter in this hemisphere, but the assumption that he is already on his way back to Wigan is not necessarily well-founded.

Although Wigan's results so far this season make Eric Hughes' job there far from secure, Monie parted from the club with some acrimony and has said repeatedly that he would not return whilst Jack Robinson remains chairman.

The British job Monie always fancied is the one at Leeds, occupied by his closest lieutenant both at Wigan and at Auckland, Dean Bell. The two men remain close - close enough, in theory, to make a formidable team.

But the Monie family might have a different agenda. They had a house built on the Central Coast, north of Sydney, in which they have never lived. A period of rest and recuperation might be needed before Monie starts to rebuild his reputation.