Cooper quits Maori to focus on Chiefs
Cooper, who has coached the Maori All Blacks since 2013, said he was disappointed to have to step down from a role which had given him great joy and satisfaction, but the inevitable clash in schedules limited his availability.
"For me personally, being part of this great group of young men has been a very special experience. I’m really proud of the players and management team who have all added immense value and contributed positively to the legacy of the Maori jersey,"
Under Cooper's watch, the Maori All Blacks played and beat six national sides, played in six other countries including the United States and Canada, and played a historical, although disappointing, match at home against the British and Irish Lions.
With a total of 10 Maori All Blacks matches to his credentials, Cooper also helped 10 Maori All Blacks earn selection into the All Blacks. A total 18 players donned both the Maori All Blacks and All Blacks jerseys between 2013 and 2017.
"I’m very proud of the fact that we have helped these players to be better people through a special environment that brings together professional rugby standards and tikanga Maori. We’ve seen many players develop professionally and culturally, and that’s added an extra layer to their armour as high-performance New Zealand rugby players,"
Cooper acknowledged all his management team but in particular was grateful for the wisdom and guidance from team Kaumatua Luke Crawford.
"I think my own connection with Maoridom has been deepened, but I also believe it’s helped to make me a better coach, and a better leader,"
Cooper said he was excited that the Maori All Blacks programme was more widely recognised as potential pathway to the All Blacks, and had evolved into a programme that professional players trusted would be good for their careers.
New Zealand Rugby Maori Board Chair Dr Farah Palmer thanked Cooper for his dedication and loyalty to the team.
"Colin has been a fantastic leader for this team and his departure will be a huge loss, but we're glad he is not lost to rugby altogether.
"We know that the Maori All Blacks are a big hit with rugby fans when they travel overseas, and together with their style of play, and a strong cultural identity, Colin has been a big part of ensuring they represented New Zealand rugby and Maoridom proudly, on the international stage.
"We're really grateful for the leadership and wisdom he has brought to this team," she said.
New Zealand Rugby has commenced its search for a new Head Coach to lead the Maori All Blacks.
Colin Cooper coached the Maori All Blacks for 10 matches from 2013 to 2017. Under his stewardship, the Maori All Blacks have won all six matches they played against another national team.
Cooper will coach Taranaki for the National Provincail Cup this year before taking up the Chiefs Head Coaching role.