Home' The Wellingtonian : May 17th 2012 Contents 19
THE WELLINGTONIAN, MAY 17, 2012
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McClennan proves his point
Top coach: Brian McClennan is working his magic at the Warriors.
I'm pleased for coach Brian McClen-
nan that the Warriors have put
together a couple of big wins in the
National Rugby League.
After battling past the formidable
Brisbane Broncos 30-20 the previous
week, the Warriors won a bruising
encounter with the Sydney Roosters
30-26 last weekend and have dragged
themselves into the top eight on the NRL
I thought the Warriors would go well
with McClennan in charge but you never
know. It's a tough competition with lots
of quality teams.
McClennan must have one of the best
CVs of any New Zealand sports coach.
Bluey, as he's known, was a good
player, a stand-off who captained Auck-
land to a famous win over Britain in
He came from good rugby league stock
-- his father, Mike, was a Kiwi in 1971
and later developed into a leading coach.
Once the younger McClennan took to
coaching in the mid-1990s, he hardly put
a foot wrong.
Guiding third division Auckland side
Hibiscus Coast Raiders, he had repeated
success until they were invited to be part
of the national Bartercard Cup.
McClennan then coached the Raiders
and later Mt Albert Lions to Bartercard
He became Australian Daniel Ander-
son's assistant with the Kiwis. Anderson
wasn't really a good fit with the New
Zealand team and things looked up when
he departed and was replaced by McClen-
nan in 2005.
There was a bit of criticism initially
that McClennan lacked experience in
major Australian or English competitions
but that talk soon died away.
Under McClennan, the Kiwis enjoyed
possibly their greatest day, when they
walloped Australia 24-0 at Leeds to win
the 2005 Tri-Nations series. It was the
Kiwis' biggest win over the Kangaroos
and Australia failed to score a point in a
test for the first time in 20 years.
However, it wasn't long before McClen-
nan fell victim to some shameless New
Zealand Rugby League board politics and
he was sent packing in 2007, replaced by
Gary Kemble, a good player, but an inad-
I had a soft spot for McClennan, having
heard an inspiring speech he gave at a
coaches' conference in Wellington. He
was one of the subjects of a book I wrote
called Winning Ways, about champion
Just as it was published, he got the axe
and I remember a conversation with him
shortly after, in which he expressed his
disappointment at what had happened.
He said he was determined to prove
the detractors wrong by doing a good job
for the Leeds Rhinos, where he was head-
ing, and that he'd be back.
McClennan has been as good as his
word. He coached Leeds to Super League
grand final victories over St Helens in
2008 and 2009. In addition, Leeds won
the 2008 world club challenge, beating
the Melbourne Storm 11-4.
Once McClennan returned to New Zea-
land in 2010, it was obvious he was the
right man to replace the departing Ivan
Cleary at the Warriors.
I'm not surprised the Warriors players
have related well to McClennan.
He's very down-to-earth, appeals to
values such as pride and courage and
gives his teams enough technical advice,
but not too much. Though he's 50 now, he
is very much on his players' wavelength.
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