- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 7 October 2009 12.38 BST
Wigan today ended a six-month pursuit of a suitable coach from the cutting edge of the game in Australia's National Rugby League when they confirmed the appointment of Michael Maguire on a three-year contract.
Maguire, who has spent the last five years on the coaching staff of the Melbourne Storm team that have reached the last four NRL grand finals, succeeds Brian Noble, the former Bradford and Great Britain coach who was released after last Saturday's Super League semi-final defeat at St Helens.
He will become Wigan's 11th coach since the switch to a summer Super League in 1996, which effectively marked the end of the club's decade of dominance of British rugby league, and has been left in no doubt that he will be expected to end a wait for a major trophy that goes back to the 2002 Challenge Cup final at Murrayfield.
"This is about winning," said Wigan's chairman Ian Lenagan who identified Maguire – a 35-year-old who is regularly described in Australia as one of the most respected rising coaches in the game – as his No1 target after fact-finding visits to four NRL clubs in April. "Wigan has for some years now not been winning trophies. Some of the other Super League clubs are ahead of us, and we need to kick on."
But it was only three weeks ago, when the Rugby Football League relaxed their previous condition that only NRL head coaches would qualify for visas to work at Super League clubs, that Lenagan was able to complete the deal.
Maguire is still waiting for his visa to come through but Wigan describe it is a question of when rather than if, and expect him to arrive well before pre-season training begins in the middle of next month. He will work alongside Shaun Wane, the former Wigan forward who has been steadily climbing the coaching ranks at the club for the last decade and has led the reserve team to grand final victories in each of the last two seasons.
"I've always been a believer that Super League should be run by British people, but over the last 12 months I've spent a lot of time in Australia and realised that the NRL has kicked on much better than Super League in terms of coaching," Lenagan explained.
"After making that decision to appoint an overseas coach, we wanted a young up-and-comer rather than one of the established head coaches who have contacted us about the possibility of taking over. Michael was the perfect choice coming from the Melbourne club, which it became clear to me very early on was the hotbed of the development of coaches."
Lenagan admitted that the visa issues have caused him some sleepless nights over the last few months, revealing that if Wigan had won the Challenge Cup in August, he may have extended Noble's contract by another year.
But Wigan's semi-final defeat by Warrington effectively confirmed the end of Noble's tenure irrespective of their progress in the Super League play-offs, which ended with a fifth semi-final defeat in the last three years.
In an interview that Wigan recorded in Melbourne yesterday, Maguire said: "The history of Wigan is an enormous club and it's a great honour to be appointed their coach. Out here in Australia it's a big name, and I'm looking forward to going over there and passing on what I've learned in my time at the Storm."