Home coaches still the best
They say top sport is now so international that the coach’s nationality is irrelevant. But is it? In the past couple of weeks, South African Mickey Arthur has been sacked as Australian cricket coach on the eve of the Ashes series, and New Zealander Robbie Deans’ inglorious run as Wallabies rugby coach has continued with a series defeat by the Lions.
Arthur looked assured coaching South Africa from 2005 till 2010, but was a bad fit running the Australian side. He had little idea how to maintain discipline or gain the players’ respect.
Deans was a brilliant Canterbury and Crusaders coach. If he’d got the All Black job in 2007, when he deserved to, he would probably have coached the All Blacks to victory in the 2011 World Cup.
But reincarnated as Dingo Deans, in an Aussie tracksuit, he hasn’t commanded the same authority and his results have been spotty.
In an ideal world, a national team is better served having a coach from its own country.
England football has tried to be progressive. Swede Sven- Goran Eriksson and Italian Fabio Capello have managed the national team, which once would have been unthinkable.
Eriksson had a 59.7 per cent success rate and Capello’s was 66.7, both very respectable statistics – the great Alf Ramsey’s success rate was 61.1 per cent, and that included winning the 1966 World Cup.
However, Eriksson and Capello struggled to relate to players and fans. England has now reverted to having an Englishman running its national side.
England cricket has also gone down the foreign coach route, with Zimbabweans Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower coaching the national side, both with notable success.
Perhaps cricket coaches are more able to cross borders – Australian Steve Rixon did a good job with the New Zealand side, and John Wright was as successful coaching in India as in New Zealand.
Generally, though, it doesn’t seem to be a good idea, at least for major sports.
New Zealand rugby, with its wealth of talent, has not needed to import coaches, and when it happened once, with Australian David Nucifora coaching the Blues, it was a shambles.
I doubt any foreigner will coach the All Blacks, thank goodness.
Similarly, only New Zealanders have coached the Silver Ferns netball side, but that may change.
At present the assistant coach of the New Zealand side is Australian Vicki Wilson. And leading New Zealand franchise Bay of Plenty Magic has appointed Australian Julie Fitzgerald as its 2014 coach. It’s hardly a vote of confidence in New Zealand netball coaches.
In sports in which New Zealand doesn’t have the expertise, such as basketball and perhaps hockey, I can understand a foreign coach being appointed.
Andrej Lemanis was superb with the Breakers basketball side, and Australians Mark Hager and Colin Batch are coaching the New Zealand men’s and women’s hockey teams without too much blowback.
It could be argued that New Zealand doesn’t have much football expertise but it’s been nice having a New Zealand coach in Ricki Herbert, rather than yet another with an English accent. And the team has responded well to Herbert.
The foreign experiment hasn’t worked consistently well in rugby league. Australian Ivan Clearly was outstanding with the Warriors, but have overseas coaches John Monie, Daniel Anderson and Matthew Elliott been any better than their New Zealand equivalents? It’s debatable.
There’s no problem when a coach heads to a minnow sports nation, such as The Netherlands or maybe Bangladesh in cricket, and Croatia or Japan in rugby.
But once you get among the big-time, the wheels can fall off.
Did Graham Henry look more assured coaching Wales and the Lions, or the All Blacks? When it comes to international sports coaches, I still say there’s no place like home.
Uncomfortable fit: It’s always seemed odd seeing Robbie Deans in a Wallabies tracksuit.