The Blues are investing in the development of their coaching resource, thanks to a loyal supporter.
Coach development is a key component of the new provincial pathway plan recently announced by the Blues and their provincial partners of Northland, North Harbour and Auckland.
The programme, driven by new head of Performance Development, Andrew Hewetson, comprises a collaborative approach to high performance processes and programmes to leverage resources across the region.
The aim is a clear and continuous pathway for talent to be identified, developed and retained in the region, both for players and coaches.
This includes the appointment of a Development Coach each year, who will join the Blues coaching group and lead the age grade development programmes.
The appointment has been made possible with the generosity of long-time administrator, Brian Wilsher. The former Blues Director, Auckland Board member and life member of Pakuranga Rugby Club will fund the annual scholarship which is a key development role.
The inaugural appointment goes to All Black Steven Bates, who played for Auckland and Waikato along with the Chiefs before plying his trade as a loose forward in Japan for eight years.
He has been involved in schools and age grade coaching in North Harbour and Auckland and has already joined the programme, which includes working with Blues scrum coach Ben Afeaki in the front row development group.
“Development of coaching is a corner-stone of our overall programme,” said Hewetson. “While much energy goes into engaging and nurturing young rugby talent, it is vital to grow and develop our coaching resource alongside this.
“With the generous support from Brian Wilsher, this scholarship is a godsend for us to be able to fund a key coach for our future.
“Steven has been part of our coaching resource at age grade level but the opportunity to be based with our Blues coaches under Leon MacDonald is invaluable.”
Wilsher said he is excited to back this new initiative.
“I have the chance now to give back to the sport and I am really excited with the direction being taken by the Blues and the provincial unions in the region.
“Development of our coaching resource is something that is fundamental for rugby here and I am pleased to be able to play a part in making it a reality.”
Bates has already taken up his role based at the Blues headquarters.