Lavea to stand down as PIC Steelers coach after 2021 season

The Counties Manukau Rugby Football Union has confirmed today that PIC Steelers head coach Tai Lavea will stand down from his position at the end of the 2021 Bunnings Warehouse NPC season.

Lavea, who was appointed in 2020 and was contracted until the end of next year, has asked for a release in order to take up a coaching opportunity in Japan.

CMRFU Chief Executive Officer Aaron Lawton said it was disappointing to lose a coach of Lavea’s ability but that the Union wouldn’t stand in his way.

“Tai’s made some great strides with the PIC Steelers since joining us at the start of last year,” Lawton said.

“He’s worked hard to drive a real culture of high performance within the team and we certainly saw him as a long-term coach for us.

“At the same time, he’s been offered a huge opportunity in Japan and we don’t think it would be fair to force him to stay.”

The PIC Steelers have had a tough start to their 2021 campaign having lost to both Manawatu and North Harbour in recent weeks.

However, Lawton said it was important to stress that Lavea’s decision to leave at the end of the season was his alone.

“I want to be clear here that Tai has the full backing of the Union and we are right behind him and the team,” Lawton said.

“He’s a man of high integrity and we have no doubt he will continue to work hard in the coming weeks to get this PIC Steelers team firing.”

Lavea said he hadn’t made the decision to leave lightly and that it would be tough to walk away from a team and Union that welcomed him in from day one.

“I’ve fallen in love with this place since coming on board last year and I certainly had no intention of leaving so soon,” Lavea.

“The opportunity in Japan is an exciting one but my total focus until November is on the PIC Steelers and our Bunnings Warehouse NPC campaign.

“I’d also like to thank the Union for giving me an opportunity to coach at this level and I certainly hope to repay the faith they’ve had in me before I leave.”

The CMRFU will begin the search for Lavea’s replacement in the coming weeks.