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Wairarapa-Bush seeking new head coach

By Gary Caffell

Wairarapa-Bush will have a new head coach as they head into their 2017 Heartland championship rugby campaign.

Odds strongly favoured incumbent Josh Syms being reappointed to the role after he guided the side to a Meads Cup semifinal in his first season in charge in 2015 and repeated that scenario this year.

However, those hopes were dashed when it became clear that Syms’ fulltime position as director of rugby for the Hutt Old Boys club meant he would have little chance of being involved with the Wairarapa-Bush side before early August, something which union officials obviously saw as being a major obstacle to him being given a third successive term.

Syms said it was “unfortunate but understandable” that the WBRU board had taken that stance and, in the end, he had decided not to reapply for the head coach position.

“You can certainly say it was by mutual agreement. There are no hard feelings,” Syms told the Times-Age yesterday. “For me to stay on there would have had to be some changes to the way things were done and the board weren’t happy with that, and I fully understand why.”

Board chairman Paoro Ammunson clearly hinted in a press release in which he lauded Syms coaching performance for Wairarapa-Bush that him being largely unavailable for the 2017 club season due to his work commitments in Wellington was a big factor in them seeking a new head coach.

He said the board took the view that the Heartland coach needed to be hands-on and available through the Wairarapa-Bush club season, both on Saturdays and also on Tuesday and Thursdays when they could work alongside clubs

“We have discussed this with Josh and have agreed that it may be in both parties” best interests to look to appoint another person to the head coach role,” Ammunson says. “While we would have probably re-appointed Josh for another year, perhaps this is an opportunity to push on with our long-term goal to elevate a home grown leader to the new role.”

That latter statement suggests that either – or both – Joe Harwood and James Bruce, who were assistant coaches to Syms in the latest heartland campaign, will be the front-runners for the head coach role now that Syms is out of the picture.

They are both former Wairarapa-Bush reps who have coached successfully on the club scene, Harwood for Carterton and Bruce for Martinborough., and Syms is “absolutely certain” they are ready for promotion in the coaching ranks.

“I thought the three of us worked really well together, and if they are given the chance to take over as head coach I am sure they will go a good job. Technically they are both excellent and while there is a lot more to coaching than that I am absolutely certain they can step up without any problem at all.”

The Ammunson press release also said that while Syms won’t be head coach for Wairarapa-Bush he could still be part of the Wairarapa-Bush rugby whanau in other ways.

“We wish Josh well for the future and the board will announce the process over the coming week for the head coach appointment for next season.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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