Last Thursday afternoon provided an interesting tale of two coaches.
And while it’s congratulations to Luke Robinson on a cracking start in caretaker charge of Huddersfield, Chris Chester (pictured) might well be looking over his shoulder at Wakefield.
Trinity are now bottom of the table, and have won only five of their last 25 Super League games going back to last season, when they needed a last-match victory over London to secure their survival.
Wakefield have really struggled since the resumption, and while there have been major issues with player availability, whether through injury or Covid protocols, that doesn’t account for missed tackles and, as the coach himself has pointed out, a lack of fight from the players who are out on the pitch.
The announcement that Willie Poching will join Trinity as Chezzy’s assistant in November has led to some suggestions that he will end up as head coach.
I’m not sure about that, because Chezzy’s relationship with both Trinity chief executive Michael Carter and Willie, with whom he worked at Hull KR, seems strong.
Willie’s arrival will be a boost. He knows the club, having been a popular player there, and has plenty of coaching experience, much of it gained alongside Tony Smith, who is a terrific man to learn from.
Michael Carter will be hoping he and Chezzy can join forces to get Wakefield back to where they were two or three years ago, when they finished fifth twice in succession.
Huddersfield also had a brush with relegation last year, and while their pre-lockdown form was impressive, the win over Trinity was their first since the season got back under way.
The departure of Simon Woolford, originally due at the end of the season but made immediate within a few days of the original announcement, suggests things were hardly hunky-dory behind the scenes at the Giants.
There has been plenty of conjecture about who has been behind Huddersfield’s recruitment over the last few years, and it hasn’t always been the best, but there’s no denying the quality Aussie halfback Aidan Sezer has brought to the club.
Sezer is a close associate of Simon Woolford, who I admire as a man and a coach and who will surely get a position of some sort at an NRL club sooner or later, and it will be interesting to see if he sees out his two-year contract at the Giants.
Sezer had a superb game against Wakefield, but Huddersfield aren’t just a one-man team, and they have some very good young players coming through.
Inevitably, there have been plenty of names linked with the coaching vacancy, but I’d like to see Luke Robinson get the job on a permanent basis.
He has learned his trade as a coach at a very strong community club in Siddal, and he knows the Giants well, having both played for the club and worked on the coaching staff since hanging up his boots.
Much of that time has been spent with the bright young players who are now on the first-team scene, and in Andy Kelly, the man who helped get Wakefield into Super League, and Kim Williams, the former West
Wales Raiders coach, he has experienced and knowledgeable back-up.
What is very important is that whoever gets the job is given the time and the freedom to get things working the way he wants them to, especially if Huddersfield want to make the most of their investment in youth.
I was the club’s first coach in Super League back in 1998, and since then, there have been eight more – and that’s not counting caretakers.
That’s way too much change. The Giants need stability.
Could this be Salford’s Challenge Cup year?
They made Old Trafford for the Grand Final last year – now could Salford be set for Wembley and the Challenge Cup Final this time around?
I was delighted for coach Ian Watson when the Red Devils beat Catalans in the quarter-finals.
They proved the old saying that a game lasts 80 minutes, or in this case 82.
Salford didn’t panic when they went behind and fully deserved to force golden-point extra-time.
And wasn’t it refreshing to see a side spot an opportunity and back themselves to score a try, rather than automatically going for a field goal?
The reward is a semi-final meeting with the holders Warrington in what should be an entertaining clash.
St Helens are fine when they are dominating matches, but they don’t seem too keen on a dogfight.
They look better and more organised when James Graham and Alex Walmsley are both on the pitch, and I don’t really understand why Kristian Woolf doesn’t get more minutes out of them.
Warrington’s big players stepped up to the plate, and Steve Price’s men showed they won’t let go of the Cup lightly.
It’s Leeds against Wigan in Saturday week’s other semi-final, and it’s a tough one to call.
I’ve often been critical of Wigan’s style of play in the past, but there were plenty of aspects of their performance against Hull to like, while Sean O’Loughlin showed just how influential a player he still is.
As for Leeds, they just had too much power for Hull KR, and perhaps it was a game too far for Tony Smith’s side after their sterling performances against Wigan and St Helens.
I thought Leeds’ stand-out players were Richie Myler, who has had a great season, Rhyse Martin and Liam Sutcliffe.
Harry Newman and Sutcliffe form a great pair of centres, and it seems Liam has found his best position after trying to be the next Kevin Sinfield at loose-forward or the next Danny McGuire at stand-off.
He’s certainly putting some pressure on Konrad Hurrell, who needs to shed a few pounds, improve his fitness and lose his tag as a mistake machine.
Let’s resolve World Cup uncertainty
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the World Cup should be put back to 2022.
The tournament chief executive Jon Dutton has confirmed contingency plans are in place to delay next year’s event.
And if Jon is to fulfil his pledge of making it the biggest and best-ever tournament, which would provide our game with a badly-needed boost, that’s what needs to happen.
He says “time is on our side”, but I’m not so sure, because as we have seen, just when we seem to be making progress in terms of dealing with the pandemic, we encounter a major setback.
Many of the towns and cities which are set to stage matches have had local lockdowns, and those could well happen again as we struggle to contain Covid-19.
Until a vaccine is developed, how can we plan ahead with any certainty?
We need to know we can have stadia fully open, and we need our own fans to be able to move from place to place and those from overseas to be confident about travelling to our country.
Without supporters, how can the tournament be a success?
We have Shaun Wane in position as England coach until 2022, and let’s be decisive and announce now that the World Cup has been put back until then.
That way, we ease the uncertainty and pressure over everything being okay in 2021 and give everyone the chance to plan ahead.
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