Rugby League: `Teddy bear' Endacott to coach Wigan

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The Independent Online
WIGAN HAVE appointed the New Zealand Test coach, Frank Endacott, to what has become the game's hottest seat - but only for one year.

Endacott, who has enjoyed great success with the Kiwi Test side, replaces Andy Goodway, the Great Britain coach he defeated in two Test series.

"I have made no secret of the fact that I would love to coach in England and I am delighted that the chance has come at a club as big as Wigan," said Endacott, who will continue as the New Zealand coach for the Lincoln World Cup next year. He is the second Kiwi coach to be appointed by Maurice Lindsay, and Wigan's rise to pre-eminence could be traced from the arrival of the first, Graham Lowe, in 1986.

The big difference is that Endacott has been given just one season to show that he is the long-term answer. Lindsay's argument for the arrangement is that the last five Wigan coaches - John Dorahy, Graeme West, Eric Hughes, the second incarnation of John Monie and Goodway - have each been sacked before the end of their contract.

"I suggested to Frank that we should both take the pressure off ourselves by making it a one-year deal and seeing how it goes," said Lindsay as he announced the appointment yesterday. "He said, `Maurice, I'll back myself'."

As well as being in charge of New Zealand for five years, during which the Kiwis have consistently outplayed Great Britain and come close to wresting the title of world champions from Australia, Endacott has been assistant to Monie at the Auckland Warriors and later head coach there in his own right.

His famously affable nature has been a recommendation for him in this new role. "The club has been through a pretty miserable time," said Lindsay, who returned as chairman in October. "The supporters have become disillusioned and it has affected the players. That is why I feel that Frank is the right coach at the right time for this club.

"Under that teddy-bear exterior, there's a very tough rugby league coach, but he will bring a refreshing change to the dressing-room. That is what the players need at the moment, rather than a highly scientific coach."

Only giving Endacott a one- year contract, however, gives Lindsay the leeway to change his mind about what Wigan need at the end of the 2000 season. "I know that people will say that Frank is only keeping the seat warm for Ellery Hanley or Chris Anderson and I can't help that," Lindsay said.

Hanley, for whom Lindsay has an undisguised admiration, has another year to run on his contract with St Helens. By that time, there might also be tempting Australian candidates available, like Anderson or the Brisbane Broncos' mentor, Wayne Bennett.

It all combines to put pressure on Endacott to produce results quickly after the disappointment of this year - the first for 15 seasons in which Wigan have not won a trophy.

He will have to do it with a squad largely assembled by others, although Wigan have one import spot available if Danny Moore agrees to a transfer to London. Endacott will have a say in which player - a forward - will come in when and if that happens.

The question of an assistant is being left open until Endacott meets the remaining members of Wigan's coaching staff, Billy McGinty and Ged Byrne. That is unlikely to be before the Boxing Day derby against St Helens as the club are not hopeful of obtaining a work permit for him any earlier.