“We should be bloody proud of this guy.”
The chief executive officer, Bay of Plenty Rugby's Mike Rogers, is musing on his main man – Steamers' coach Clayton McMillan.
It's an impromptu report card as the CEO reflected on a successful season. The report card is a glowing one, straight As, a pass with distinction and honours. But it also suggests it's a career in development and one that will continue to improve and succeed.
“He's achieved a hell of a lot in a short space of time,” says Mike.
Like taking the Steamers from mid-table ordinariness when he took on the role in 2015, to almost bagging a trophy Lion in the thrilling championship final of 2017, and leading the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians to a respectable and spirited six-point loss in the Lions tour opener. And then his anointing as head coach of the Maori All Blacks for their northern tour to Canada and France.
Now McMillan can add that 51-9 weekend walloping of Canada in Vancouver to his CV.
“Having someone in such a high-profile position is huge for the region. And I guess my job is just to keep supporting him,” says Mike.
A personable coach, straight-shooting, results driven, yet humble. “Clayton deserves everything he is achieving now.”
McMillan, he says, has had a huge impact on Bay of Plenty Rugby. “A great advocate for our strategic plan who has made a massive contribution to our high performance – the men made the final of their division, the women won their division, the under 19s were fifth - the highest we have ever achieved - and other rep teams performed well and won against traditional foes like Waikato.”
He believes the impact of McMillan's success flows right through to the community.
“And he's black and white, he tells it like it is. That's what people appreciate - no hidden agendas, doing everything for the right reason and hugely passionate about the Bay of Plenty.” And he says McMillan has been made to do some hard yards to get to this point.
McMillan, a Bay of Plenty centurion, transitioned into coaching 15 years ago when he was finishing a professional playing career in Japan. And since returning to New Zealand, he's coached at age group and club level in both the Bay and Wellington before taking control at the Steamers in 2015. “He's done the hard yards,” says the CEO.
“He would be the first person to admit he is not the perfect article. There are things to be learned and things he will continue to get better at.”
And that's what excites Mike Rogers. “I know we have a fantastic coach, and fantastic staff that go with him. But he still has growth, and so do we.
And when McMillan disappeared overseas with the Maori All Blacks pretty much after the final whistle in the Mitre 10 Cup final, Mike Rogers was straight into planning and plotting for next year. “We don't want this year's success to be a blip, a one off.”