Wigan Warriors coach Michael Maguire to leave

Michael Maguire
Michael Maguire was appointed Wigan Warriors coach in October 2009

Wigan coach Michael Maguire is to leave the Super League champions at the end of the season to return down under.

The Australian, who won the title in his first season last term, has decided to return down under after accepting an offer to join South Sydney for 2012.

The Rabbitohs, whose joint owner is Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, will bring in Maguire as successor to veteran head coach John Lang.

Maguire's assistant Shaun Wane heads the list of contenders to replace him.

"Without a doubt," said Maguire, "He's helped build what we've done, he's dedicated and he's a great candidate.

"The systems are in place here and there are some really good people that work with me."

Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan added: "The first we knew of it was Michael talking to us about the possibility 10 days ago and I asked him to keep me informed.

"There was no question of not releasing him. It's not at all acrimonious. We understand he wishes to go back to Australia and we would not stand in his way."

After telling the club of his decision earlier in the day, Maguire, 37, publicly revealed his intended switch after his side ended their three-game run without a victory by winning 28-16 win at Hull KR on Friday night.

Souths had originally made Wayne Bennett, whose St George Illawarra side beat Wigan in the World Club Challenge in February, their number one target.

But the former Brisbane, Queensland and Australia coach has instead agreed to join Newcastle Knights when his current deal with runs out at the end of the season.

And, so soon into his time at Wigan, that left Maguire with a tough decision to make.

But he believes he will be leaving the club in good shape - and insists that there may be more to come before he departs in October.

"We have worked hard and we got on the big stage and that's where Wigan should be," he said. "But I want to achieve a hell of a lot more. And I want to make sure we do that.

"In my time here we've been able to build a great team that will take things forward for Wigan.

"The players are a great bunch and I enjoy coaching them. And we have a lot of footy in front of us.

"But it was a tough decision. The speculation has been going on for a hell of a long time, but, over the last couple of days, it became real and for personal reasons I chose that it was the right time."

Maguire was understudy to Craig Bellamy at Melbourne Storm before initially joining the Warriors on a two-year contract in October 2009, with an option for a third season.

Having succeeded Brian Noble at the DW Stadium, he struck gold at the first attempt, guiding Wigan to their first Super League title for 12 years.

But Wigan have suffered a stuttering start to the new campaign, winning only four of their first eight Super League games.

After letting slip a 16-0 lead with just 15 minutes left to be held by fierce local rivals St Helens in the season opener at the Millennium Stadium, they have since been held at Leeds, as well as suffering home defeats by Warrington and Catalan Dragons.

Last Friday night's 47-28 loss to the Catalans maintained their worrying sequence of results in front of their own fans.

Including their World Club Challenge defeat, Wigan have lost three of this term's four home games - and, in the other game, they had to come from behind late on to beat Hull 14-12.

But Wigan have been affected by injuries, chiefly to last season's record-breaking points scorer Pat Richards, as well as being affected by the off-field issues that caused them to let go of Great Britain centre Martin Gleeson for an unspecified "serious distraction in his personal life".

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