Could Shaun Wane be about to coach the Warriors – not his old club Wigan, but New Zealand?
The Auckland club is on the look-out after giving Stephen Kearney the boot following Friday’s 40-12 loss to South Sydney, which left them with only two wins from six in the NRL this season.
It seems a little on the harsh side, given the particular problems Kearney, who let’s not forget, led New Zealand to World Cup glory in 2008, has had to deal with in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
The Warriors have had to relocate to Australia, which can’t have been easy in the circumstances. But, having said that, they have only made the play-offs once since Kearney took the job in 2017 and the club owners have clearly decided that a change is needed.
Shaun has been linked with the New Zealand version of the Warriors before, and those three Super League title triumphs with Wigan make him an attractive option.
I often think that when he is being interviewed, you can see his desire to regain that day-to-day involvement with players.
Of course, he recently became England coach, a position that means a huge amount to him, and I know he is determined to do everything he can to win the World Cup on home soil next year.
But with the approval of the Rugby Football League, I believe he could do both jobs.
I know I was a big critic of Wayne Bennett, but rather than him coaching in the NRL, that had more to do with his attitude to the England and Great Britain jobs, his tactics and team selection, and his apparent lack of interest in Super League.
Shaun, in contrast, knows the competition inside out. With modern technology, he could keep a close eye on events over here even when on the other side of the world, and he would also have his lieutenants Paul Wellens and Andy Last on the ground over here.
And while I had my doubts about how Wayne Bennett used Ian Watson and Danny Ward, I reckon Shaun listens closely to what his right-hand men are telling him!
Too much information
I’VE got a lot of time for St Helens as a club and Eamonn McManus as a Chairman.
But I’m disappointed about the way he has handled Luke Thompson’s earlier-then-scheduled departure to the NRL.
Luke has pretty much been thrown under the bus, and having experienced something similar when I left Hull for Leeds back in 1987, I can vouch for it leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
Of course, it’s disappointing for both Saints and Super League to lose a top-quality player.
But I saw no need for his club to go public on Luke’s refusal to accept a pay cut.
We all know the effects of the coronavirus crisis have been wide-ranging, and that many people in all walks of life have taken a financial hit.
But a contract is a contract, and if Saints were unable or unwilling to fulfil it, Luke had every right to refuse a wage reduction and seek another club.
I’ve said several times in the past that, as a player, you are essentially a piece of meat to be traded, and clubs are always ready to get rid of you when it suits them.
Saints have lost a very good prop, but they have also gained a transfer fee and decreased their wage bill at a financially challenging time.
Luke was heading to Canterbury Bulldogs at the end of the season in any case, so it’s simply a case of bringing the move forward.
Why couldn’t it have been presented as that, with the reasons kept in-house?
Instead, some fans might now have a different attitude towards a homegrown player who has given great service and made a big contribution to winning two titles.
In addition, Luke, at 25, might at some stage return to Super League.
Should that happen, the chances of it being with Saints might well have been lessened.
Welcome home, James!
IT’S looking likely that as Luke Thompson leaves St Helens, James Graham will be coming back.
St George Illawarra have said he can leave as soon as they find a replacement, and Saints, where he played between 2003-11, when he moved to Canterbury, are reportedly in pole position to secure his services.
I watched James help St George, where he has played since 2018, beat Gold Coast Titans in the NRL on Saturday, and even at 34, he remains a class act. To be honest, I’m surprised St George are willing to let him go at this stage.
He’s an experienced, intelligent and reliable rugby player, his ball skills are good, his defence is rock solid, his fitness levels look high, he’s Mr Consistency and he still looks like he enjoys himself every time he takes to the pitch.
I know it’s been said that his return to England will only be until the end of this season, with a media career back in Australia beckoning.
But to me, he looks to have a good 18 months left in him.
A media career will surely still be there in 2022, and, as the old saying goes, you’re a long time retired. So it makes sense to carry in playing as long as you feel fit enough and able to contribute something to the overall team effort.
And if I were Leeds, I’d be offering him an 18-month deal to come to Headingley.
The Rhinos still have to fill the gap left by Trent Merrin’s move to St George, and I reckon James could prove to be the final piece in the jigsaw to regain the title, which was last won in 2017.
England would also benefit because he would be playing in Super League in the build-up to next year’s World Cup.
Good luck, Lee!
GIVEN that Hull have conceded 176 points, the second-highest tally in Super League this season (although they have played more games than some other clubs), I had to have a little chuckle to myself on learning that Lee Radford has become defence coach of new North American rugby union club Dallas Jackals.
But in all seriousness, I’d like to wish Radders, who is someone I like and respect, all the best in what is an interesting and exciting move.
I think he has a lot to offer, and hopefully Rugby League hasn’t seen the last of him.
The eye of the storm
I’ve had an eye problem going back to December, and having had a fourth, and hopefully final, operation last Monday, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me and sent good wishes over the last six months.
My particular gratitude goes not just to the superb staff at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, who have been brilliant, but all those who work in our amazing NHS, and that’s at all times, not just during the current pandemic, which I know is hugely challenging for them.
While I’m still at the recovery stage, the specialist is pleased with the way things are going, and hopefully by the time Super League resumes, I’ll have made even more progress.
So I’m looking forward to getting back to a Rugby League ground and watching the action first hand.