Were Huddersfield right to sack Paul Anderson?

Paul Anderson became the fourth coaching casualty of 2016 earlier this week as he was ‘stood down’ by Huddersfield, following in the footsteps of Chris Chester, Brian Smith and James Lowes.

The former Great Britain international’s near four-year spell at the Giants came to an end following a bitterly disappointing year, which has seen the club slump to 11th in Super League and all but certainties for the Qualifiers following the league split.

However, the three-and-a-half years before that had been incredibly successful for Anderson and the Giants. Taking over from Nathan Brown midway through the 2012 season, Anderson steadied the ship after a torrid two month period in which the Giants had lost eight of their last ten games, with the club eventually finishing seventh.

In his first full year in charge, Anderson guided the club to the League Leaders’ Shield and their first finish at the top of the table in 81 years, eventually missing out on a place in the Grand Final as they lost to Warrington in the play-off semi-finals.

The only nut that Anderson failed to crack was the play-offs. In the following two years he again oversaw strong league finishes, finishing third in 2014 and fourth in 2015. However, they failed to perform on the big stage once again. Anderson’s side slumped to a 57-4 defeat to Wigan in 2014 before being knocked out by Catalans, and in 2015 they were uninspiring in another defeat to the Warriors.

But despite the annual end of season disappointment, the general consensus was that the Giants were overachieving under Anderson. They were mixing it with the competition’s most prestigious clubs, despite smaller crowds and the ‘unfashionable’ tag often associated with the club.

Like every other season, they were written off by the media and fans alike going into 2016, but those predictions were proved correct as the Giants have spluttered through the campaign.

Criticism has been aimed at Anderson all year, with fans in particular left frustrated with his methods. But in reality, Anderson has been up against it all year. The sudden departure of Brett Ferres was followed by the retirement of Luke Robinson at the start of the season, and Anderson was never truly able to replace their influence on the team. Add to that a string of injuries to key players, and Huddersfield have been as unlucky as any club this year.

Anderson failed to replace Luke Robinson after he was forced to retire.
Anderson failed to replace Luke Robinson after he was forced to retire.

The club’s decision to part ways with Anderson has split the fans. Performances in recent weeks have been poor following a string of promising displays, which saw the club progress to the Challenge Cup quarter-final and hammer St Helens at Magic Weekend.

However, uninspiring displays against Castleford and Wakefield proved to be the final straw for the Giants hierarchy, who pulled the trigger on Anderson.

Reports all year have suggested that his relationship with Danny Brough had soured, with Anderson stripping him of the captaincy at the start of the season. Whether internal matters were a factor is something that can only be speculated. The departure of Larne Patrick surprised many, given the club’s ongoing problems in finding players to boost the squad, it was potentially one mistake Anderson did make earlier in the year.

But on the field, three successful campaigns should have perhaps bought Anderson more time to turn things around, especially given the difficulties he has faced this year. In a competition where every club spends the same amount of money, and with Huddersfield one of few clubs not spending up to the cap, the Giants have no divine right to be a constant force at the top of the table. Yes, 2016 has been a massive disappointment, but the three years previous had been incredibly successful.

Only time will tell us if Anderson overachieved or had taken the club as far as he could, but his tenure at the Giants should be remembered for the positive impact he had overall.