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Bye-bye Pat Lam - why not Buck?

By Willie Jackson

It's all over for Pat Lam as the Auckland Blues coach after he was dropped in favour of former All Black great John Kirwan who will coach the team for the next two years.

Lam gave an emotional final press conference and seemed genuinely surprised that the decision was made to drop him. The panel, though, had no choice. Despite Lam being one of the gentlemen of the sport and a thoroughly decent bloke, he has been well off the mark with his coaching in the past 12 months.

Sure he wasn't helped by an atrocious run of injuries and a franchise that gave him little support when the going got tough.

But it seemed at times that he was his own worst enemy. There were far too many erratic selections from him, particularly at halfback and first five-eight and the style of play that his team used was baffling to say the least.

His view that his situation was like Graham Henry's when Henry lost at the 2007 World Cup was not plausible.

Henry lost one game; Lam has lost 12 this year. Henry had an 80 per cent-plus winning record, Lam's winning percentage is less than 50 for the past four years.

So Pat just had to go.

One coach, though, who obviously won't get an opportunity is ex-All Black great Buck Shelford.

Buck put his name up for consideration but didn't even get an interview. One would have thought that given the ill-discipline shown by the Blues over the past few seasons that Buck would have been the perfect person to straighten them out.

Buck was famous for his no-nonsense approach but clearly the panel was not interested in him.

It's a shame he wasn't given a chance.

No-one epitomises honesty, strength and discipline in rugby like him.

He was an undefeated All Black captain, successful North Harbour and professional overseas coach and he's been the chairman of North Harbour Rugby.

Unfortunately though, he does not tick Auckland rugby boxes. He is not part of the NZRFU system and strategy and is not part of the Auckland Blues in-crowd.

That Auckland in-crowd never liked Buck, he wasn't smooth enough for them, not compliant enough and too often spoke his mind.

In 1990 when Buck was All Black captain it was the Auckland faction that demanded his dismissal and he was dropped from the All Blacks. Gary Whetton replaced Buck as All Black captain and then coincidently 22 years later led the Blues coaching review as chairman of the union.

Poor Buck didn't have a chance.

Auckland Now, 20th July 2012

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