Wakefield Trinity head of rugby John Kear admits he can see the influence of one of his former players in Leigh Centurions as the two sides prepare to meet tonight.
Kear worked alongside Paul Cooke during a period of success at Hull FC when, together as lynchpin half-back and coach, Cooke and Kear helped the Black and Whites win the Challenge Cup in 2005.
Cooke is now assistant coach at the Centurions, who have won three of their opening six games since returning to Super League – and Kear says on the whole, he likes what he sees from Leigh.
“They’ve been very impressive,” he said. “They’ve had a tough opening and the only game really where they were put to the sword was the Castleford game on the opening night – when Cas were fantastic.
“They have learned very quickly from that and adapted, too, so they are establishing themselves as a very competitive Super League team.
“The half-backs are clever. I can see a Paul Cooke influence in how (Josh) Drinkwater and (Ben) Reynolds are playing and obviously the three-quarters can finish. I’m a big fan of Adam Higson who’s on the wing. From my time at Batley, we always used to think he was a pest, basically, who was difficult to handle – and he’s certainly proved that this year in Super League too. They’re a really good all-round team.”
Kear kept his cards close to his chest on whether Trinity would make too many changes after defeat at Leeds last Friday – but says he is excited to see Keegan Hirst inch closer to a first Super League appearance.
Hirst has been named in Chris Chester’s 19-man squad for the match on Thursday, and Kear admits the former Batley captain is not far away from a Super League debut, whether that be tomorrow or in the future.
“Obviously Keegan is in the 19 which I’m particularly excited about, and hopefully he gets a run-out and we see that he is Super League level,” Kear said.
“He was certainly one of the best props in the Championship along with some of the Leigh props and they are proving they are Super League players. I’m certain that Keegan, should he get the opportunity, will do a similar thing.
“He’s been patient; but he was injured in pre-season which put him back – and then he went on dual-registration to Dewsbury and had a really good game for them against Hull Kingston Rovers.
“I think that gave us a lot more confidence to say ‘right, he may well be nearing the time to see how he gets on in Super League.’
“If he doesn’t play tomorrow he certainly won’t be far away.”
Kear also admitted he is loving his new role back at Trinity after several years away coaching in the Championship with Batley.
“I love this club,” he said. “It’s a great club and I like being in situations where you’re the underdog and everyone is criticising you and you can puff your chest out and say, ‘right, we’re going to prove you wrong.’
“I just like that situation and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing; I’m enjoying working with the people here, I’ve a good boss in Michael Carter, the rest of coaching staff are good fellas who I get on with and we feel as if we’re preparing the team well and that we’ve got a good playing group.
“It is a fun time – but obviously it will only remain a fun time if we stay in that top eight.”