Pulling No Punches: The Garry Schofield Column

What now for Wakefield Trinity?

Garry Schofield has some words of advice for Wakefield Trinity, following the departure of their coach Chris Chester last week.

So throwing away an 18-point lead at Huddersfield turned out to be the final straw for Wakefield as far as coach Chris Chester was concerned.

It’s a results-driven business, and that was a 13th defeat in 17 Super League games for Trinity, who finished second-bottom last season and are fighting to avoid a similar fate this time around, assuming Leigh don’t somehow hit a purple patch between now and the end of the season, which seems unlikely.

It’s hard not to feel for Chris, and I certainly applaud him for having a go at some of his team after that miserable collapse against the Giants.

I wish more coaches would give open and honest opinions about players rather than sugar-coating situations.

As I’ve said before, when a team is playing poorly, as Wakefield have done all too often over the last few years, it’s generally the coach who carries the can.

The same thing happened to John Duffy over at Leigh.

I think Chris has often been generous in holding off the old hair-dryer, and as a club, Trinity have given too many players too much leeway, allowing them to enter the comfort zone.

In my view, the best contracts are over two years, with the option of a third, ensuring players have plenty of incentive to perform week in, week out.

I’ve no doubt Trinity chief executive Michael Carter will have found it very tough to tell Chris, because the two of them seemed to have a very strong relationship.

And even quite recently, there was talk of a new deal, which after Daryl Powell departs Castleford for Warrington at the end of the season, would have made Chris, who was appointed in March 2016, the longest-serving coach in Super League.

Now that title will go to Steve McNamara, who took over at Catalans Dragons halfway through the 2017 season.

Willie Poching has got the job in the interim; and will it become permanent? He’s certainly had a number of assistant coaching roles, and he has already thrown his hat into the ring.

With so few jobs around, there is likely to be plenty of interest.

Andy Last, who is also on the coaching staff at Trinity after leaving Hull at the end of last season, has been mentioned, although with Poching getting the nod as caretaker and talk of Last linking up with his old colleague Lee Radford at Castleford in 2022, that seems an unlikely scenario.

Other names include Brian McDermott, who comes from Wakefield and is currently trying to oversee a Houdini act at Championship side Oldham, Danny Ward, who left London Broncos earlier this season, Andrew Henderson, another former Broncos coach who will depart Warrington alongside Steve Price at the end of the year, Danny Orr, who is on the coaching team at Salford, and Jason Demetriou, who was a very popular player at Wakefield, but could take some tempting to move back to the UK from Australia, where he is working alongside Wayne Bennett at South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Given the talk of a Super League 1 and 2 in 2023, it’s a big decision for Trinity, who will need a top-ten finish next time around, which they’ve not achieved since 2019, although the bottom of the table was so tight that year, they needed a last-round win over London Broncos to ensure their survival.

Danny Ward was in charge of the Broncos that night, and he’d be my choice as the new Wakefield coach.

He did a really good job at London, first taking them into Super League, then coming close to keeping them there. He has international experience, having worked alongside Wayne Bennett when he was in charge of Great Britain and it would be really interesting to see what he could do at Trinity.

Like father, like son

With Huddersfield’s Will Pryce, 18, gaining rave reviews, Wigan’s Umyla Hanley, 19, scoring a hat-trick against Leigh earlier this month and Leeds’ Jack Sinfield, 16, signing a first professional contract, there are plenty of familiar surnames in the news at the moment.

Other sons of former Rugby League stars to have caught the eye include Jarod O’Connor, 20, and Morgan Gannon, 17, at Leeds, and Ben McNamara, 19, at Hull.

Leon Pryce – and what a renowned RL family he and Will are a part of – Ellery Hanley, Kevin Sinfield, Terry O’Connor, Jim Gannon and Steve McNamara will all be watching on with pride.

I know from experience with my own son Jonathan that it can be tough for youngsters to follow in the footsteps of their fathers, because they aren’t always judged on their own merits, and it must be frustrating to continually have to listen to comparisons.

Having said that, Owen Farrell and George Ford have done okay, albeit in the other code, while Nathan Cleary has blossomed under the tutelage of his dad Ivan at Penrith Panthers.

Fathers obviously want the best for their sons, but have to find the right balance, and it’s a case of being around to offer advice but not to interfere too much.

In Jack Sinfield’s case, he will be helped by the fact Kevin is no longer at Leeds, and if he turns out to be a chip off the old block, then happy days!

Tottenham could never compare to Wembley

For all the RFL’s talking up of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I’m not convinced that having the Challenge Cup and 1895 Cup finals there on Saturday, May 28, 2022 will provide anything like the Wembley experience.

The Challenge Cup has been messed about with so much in recent years. Was it really impossible to find a date which suited both the BBC and the national stadium?

Wembley is such an iconic venue, which has that special appeal to players, coaches, club officials and, most importantly, fans.

Will playing at Tottenham, however spectacular a stadium it might be, have quite the same appeal? I don’t think so.

I know the Challenge Cup final has been held at Murrayfield, the Millennium Stadium and Twickenham, but that was when Wembley was being redeveloped, so there was no option but to go elsewhere.

And the very thing which makes the 1895 Cup something special is that it provides part-time players with the incentive of playing at one of the world’s best-known venues.

The RFL are saying we will be back at Wembley in 2023, but for me, one year away is one too many.

My Super League predictions

What a season it’s turning out to be for Hull KR, and the news that owner Neil Hudgell has taken the club off the market will provide another boost as Tony Smith’s entertaining team try to make the play-offs.

They took a step closer by beating Wigan on Friday, and we’re all looking forward to the big city showdown at Hull FC on Saturday.

Fans of the Black and Whites won’t like my prediction, because I fancy Rovers to take the spoils by 13 points.

There are plenty of derbies coming up, and with St Helens all too often playing in the style of Wigan this year, it could be a dour affair when the two meet on Friday. I reckon Saints will have a bit too much for the home side and win by eight.

On Thursday, I can see Leeds beating Huddersfield by 18, while on Saturday, I think Castleford will be 20 points better than Wakefield, and on Sunday, I’m going Salford by ten at Leigh.

That just leaves an intriguing clash between Warrington and Catalans on Thursday, and with Steve Price’s Wolves having beaten Steve McNamara’s Dragons in both the league and Challenge Cup already this year, I believe they will complete a treble – by seven.

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