Justin Holbrook has urged more Australian coaches to look to Super League for their big break in the game, insisting he will help St Helens source his replacement after it was confirmed he will return home to join Gold Coast Titans at the end of this season.
Holbrook rejected the offer of a new long-term deal with the Super League leaders – whom he has transformed since arriving two years ago – in favour of a deal with the Titans to become their new head coach. The Saints are once again expected to look for an unproven Australian in the assistant, like they did with Holbrook, for their replacement, and Holbrook insists it is a pathway with proven benefits for everyone.
“For me it’s been fantastic,” he said. “If I’m a club in Australia, I would be thinking this is a definite pathway to explore. For me to come here, out of my comfort zone and work as a head coach in Super League, that’s a much better pathway than staying. It gives you all the things to prepare you to coach there, and being a head coach in Super League has given me the confidence to take it on at Gold Coast.”
Holbrook, who could still complete a domestic treble before leaving the Saints, also said he will be happy to work with the club and give advice on his replacement. “Definitely,” he said. “I’ll help them wherever I can. The best thing about leaving now is knowing the club is in a great place. All the players outside of one, Adam Swift, are still here next year. That makes me feel better about leaving.
The 43-year-old also admitted neither him nor his family had a burning desire to return to Australia, but that the timing of the opportunity dictated his decision. “I’ve always been happy here, and I still am,” Holbrook said. “But the hard thing is that essentially, that’s when you have to leave – because that’s when the opportunity comes around, because things are going so well.
“If you wait forever and decide it’s a good time in a couple of years, nobody may want you.” The St Helens chief executive, Mike Rush, is expected to head to Australia before the end of the season to speak to potential candidates. The former Wakefield player, Jason Demetriou, is among the early front-runners to replace Holbrook.