To the surprise of no one, former South Sydney mentor Michael Maguire has been named as the New Zealand Kiwis’ new coach, signing a four-year contract with the NZRL.
The NRL premiership winner was the hot tip to succeed David Kidwell after Des Hasler and Geoff Toovey dropped out of the race, while it was widely reported in recent days that Maguire had been given the nod over Laurie Daley.
Maguire, highly rated as an assistant role at Melbourne Storm and a successful stint at Wigan, took over the long-suffering Rabbitohs in 2012 and led the club to three straight top-four finishes – culminating in Souths’ first grand final win in 43 years in 2014.
A former player with Canberra Raiders and Adelaide Rams during the 1990s, ‘Madge’ Maguire’s 153-game tenure with the Rabbitohs ended last year, shown the door after his side failed to quality for the finals for the second straight season.
Maguire is the second Australian to coach the Kiwis after Daniel Anderson, who had the job from 2003-05 on the back of his success at the Warriors. Maguire is also only the second Kiwis coach after Anderson to have had previous NRL head coaching experience when stepping into the role (Frank Endacott and Stephen Kearney both took on NRL gigs when already New Zealand coach).
The 44-year-old’s tactical acumen – something that Kidwell clearly lacked – cannot be questioned, but Maguire reportedly became too intense and over-trained his players in his role with Souths, which contributed heavily to his demise at the club.
That could be a concern in a representative coaching environment, particularly with potentially a fairly fragile group under his charge. The more genial Daley, who has the experience of four years at the helm of the NSW Origin side to call upon, may have been the better choice in that regard.
But Maguire said the last six months away from the harsh NRL spotlight has helped him gain some perspective about what he enjoys about coaching.
He is also excited about the prospect of attempting to guide the Kiwis back to the pinnacle of international rugby league after last year’s diabolical World Cup campaign.
— NRL.com (@NRLcom) May 10, 2018
“2017 may not have gone in favour of the Kiwis but the beauty of that, is the opportunity to reflect and reset,” Maguire said in an NZRL press release.
“My full focus now is on the Kiwis and what we can do to build processes that manifest success which is centred around the respect for the black and white jersey.
“I’m really excited to join (NZRL chairman) Reon (Edwards) and the team to help build a winning culture that brings New Zealand back to the top of the rugby league world.
“New Zealand already supplies a lot of the top talent in the National Rugby League and English Super League and they’ve got the biggest nursery as well as the most vocal, passionate and knowledgeable fans.
“Pride in that jersey isn’t just for players, it’s for the whole of New Zealand. That’s the task facing us all at the refreshed NZRL.”
— NRL.com (@NRLcom) May 9, 2018
New Zealand Test great Dean Bell, former Kiwis coach Frank Endacott, ex-Warriors skipper Monty Betham, and former Silver Ferns netball coach Waimarama Taumaunu comprised the panel that selected Maguire for the role.
New Zealand faces England in Denver, Colorado in just over six weeks’ time, leaving Maguire with a relatively small window to figure out who is available fitness-wise and if any of last year’s Tongan defectors want to – or will be allowed to – come back into the Kiwis’ fold.