So there it is – coaching casualty number one of the new season: Chris Chester is gone from Hull Kingston Rovers.
And just like that, there is a firm reminder of how Rugby League has changed in the last 18 months. Pre-Super 8s and the new structure, the sport was built on stability, composure and longevity.
The whole idea of licensing was to give clubs time – and to pick out one club in particular, Widnes Vikings benefitted from that to perfection. They were the marquee brand for how licensing worked for the good of the sport, but Hull Kingston Rovers weren’t far behind them.
With no fear of relegation to worry about, clubs could build from within, take their time with things and appoint young, hungry British coaches who had plenty of potential. Chester fell into all of those categories – and he still does. The stats show it is less than ten games since he led Hull KR out at a Challenge Cup final, and the hand he’s been dealt since then has been tough.
They’ve been without Terry Campese – undoubtedly their best player – for months on end now, and they had to start this year without the likes of Kevin Larroyer and Shaun Lunt, too.
But if the sacking of Chester proves one thing, it’s that the cutthroat nature of promotion and relegation will force more clubs into decisions like these. It’s impossible to say if it’s the right one or not, as that can surely only be determined when the season comes to an end, and if Hull KR can fight their way into the top eight.
But this is the way the sport is going now. There is no security blanket for clubs at the bottom of Super League anymore; there’s no comfort that no matter how bad things are, you’ll be guaranteed a place at the top table next year. Now, with the Championship getting stronger, the fear of dropping out of Super League is more real than ever before.
It’s forcing clubs to change the way they act – and you fear Chester may not be the last coach to leave his role so early into the season in the years to come.