Following recent media speculation, the Auckland Blues franchise have announced that Gordon Hunter and Frank Oliver have been reconfirmed in their coaching
positions for the 2001 Telecom Rugby Super 12.
The mid-contract reviews of coach Hunter and his assistant Oliver have been completed by a panel and the Blues Board, and this announcement finally resolves an issue that puzzling many in New Zealand rugby circles.Or does it ?
Hunter, the former All Black selector, and Oliver, the former All Black lock and Wellington Hurricanes coach, took over at the Blues for the 2000 season.They improved on the 1999 season but still failed to make the semi final play offs. Hunter was hampered by some strange selection decisions, which were not his responsibility since he was away with the All Blacks on World Cup duty. These included allowing Ron Cribb to go to Canterbury, Glenn Taylor to the Chiefs and Slade McFarland to the Highlanders via Dunvant in South Wales.His task was further complicated when part way through the season he was diagnosed as having throat cancer.
Hunter and Oliver have been frequent attenders at NPC fixtures involving the Blues franchise unions - Northland, North Harbour and Auckland- despite the lack of clarity about their employment in 2001. Even this announcement is shrouded in a certain amount of controversy, since both are employed by the NZRFU yet it was Auckland CEO Geoff Hipkins who released the information.
There is speculation that the NZRFU did not want to renew the contracts but that the Blues did not want their fourth coach in as many years - Graham Henry, Jed Rowlands, Gordon Hunter- with the Blues appearing to prevail.