Moana Pasifika have confirmed that head coach Aaron Mauger has resigned.
The franchise on Monday afternoon confirmed media reports that Mauger had decided to leave after being at the helm for the past two years.
Mauger will finish at the end of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific campaign, a statement from the Auckland-based franchise said. There are two games to go.
He had initially signed his contract for three years in 2022.
Mauger had overseen a dismal season in which they have lost all 12 of their games so far this season.
Moana Pasifika's Chair La'auli Savae Sir Michael Jones said the board has accepted his decision and respects his desire to prioritise his family.
"We accept Aaron's resignation and understand his decision to prioritise his family. We thank him for his dedicated work as head coach," the former All Backs great said.
"Both in establishing the rugby management team from its inception and developing a roster of largely inexperienced players, with half the team having never played in a Super Rugby match prior to joining Moana Pasifika.
"This accomplishment is especially notable considering the disruptions posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent storm weeks last year, and a tough 2023 season. Aaron's unwavering professionalism throughout his time with Moana Pasifika in steering our waka has been commendable."
'Keep the faith' - message to the fans
Mauger expressed his deep appreciation and gratitude, adding it was time for him to return to his family.
He thanked the loyal Moana community for their unwavering support and positive encouragement.
"Your spirit and support have been hugely uplifting for the team in challenging conditions. Keep the faith and ride the waves with the team, they acknowledge and play for you every week."
Mauger has had to build a team out of Samoan, Tongan and Fijian players based in New Zealand and Australia.
Although the side had not won any games this year, he said the franchise provided a pathway for players into playing professional rugby and to develop for possible national representations with their home countries.
Jones said that is something Mauger has done well.
"Under Aaron's leadership, we have witnessed the growth and progress of our Pasifika players. His commitment to fostering their skills at a professional level has had significant impact and helped to unearth real talent."
Jones said last year, 27 Moana Pasifika players went on to represent their Pacific home nation, 13 in the 'Ikale Tahi and 14 in Manu Samoa squads, for the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) in 2022.
Tough outings for Moana and Drua with two games in hand
The news of Mauger's departure comes after a tough weekend for both Pasifika teams in Australia and New Zealand.
Both the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika lost their matches on Friday and Saturday.
The Drua were beaten 32-18 by the Waratahs in Sydney while Moana Pasifika were outclassed by the Crusaders 41-7 in Auckland.
Drua now sit at 10th position on the points table and will be hyping themselves up to win their last two matches against Moana Pasifika and the Reds over the next two weekends.
Both matches will be home games which bodes well for the Drua who this year recorded wins over the Crusaders, Rebels and Hurricanes in Fiji.
For Moana Pasifika its been a tough season sitting at the bottom of the the table with no wins from 12 matches.
However, if they can somehow pull two back-to-back wins out of their hat - they could technically still match their performance from last season.