Powell has transformed Castleford, so where next?
Is Daryl Powell a wolf in Tigers’ clothing?
News that the long-serving coach is to leave Castleford at the end of what will be his eighth full season at the helm has certainly set a big cat among the pigeons – on both sides of the Pennines.
There were already rumours that Daryl will end up at Warrington, who had already announced that Steve Price will leave at the end of this season, and now they have obviously gathered momentum, given his forthcoming availability.
Brian McDermott is another experienced and successful coach who is currently without a club, and is inevitably being linked with any high-level vacancy, be it Warrington or Castleford, while Shaun Wane could be tempted by a return to Super League, depending on how the World Cup goes.
I have seen suggestions of someone stepping up from the Championship, with Danny Ward, a former Castleford player, of course, and James Ford winning widespread acclaim for the jobs they have done at London Broncos and York respectively.
And it’s more than possible that both Castleford and Warrington could look Down Under, although I would prefer to see British coaches, rather than Aussies wanting a break from the NRL, or a stepping stone to it, getting the gigs.
The obvious question is whether either Daryl or Steve, or perhaps both, will depart ahead of schedule.
I think Daryl is the more likely of the two to stay the course, but if Warrington hit a rough patch and decide to part company with Steve earlier than planned, and if Daryl is indeed the man they want as his replacement, that could accelerate his departure from Castleford.
One thing is for sure. Whenever Daryl leaves, barring a major slump, which I can’t see happening, the club will be in a far better state than when he arrived from Featherstone midway through the 2013 season.
Under Ian Millward, Castleford were dire, and having avoided the Super League wooden spoon in 2012 only on points difference, they were bottom with just three points from eleven matches when he was given the boot.
I remember Powell’s Fev beating Millward’s Cas in the Challenge Cup, and of course in his first full season, 2014, Daryl took the Tigers to Wembley for the first time in more than 20 years and guided them to fourth place in Super League, at that time their best-ever finish in the summer era.
Three years later they claimed the League Leaders’ Shield, winning 25 out of 30 games in entertaining style, and got to the Grand Final, with genuine hopes of a first-ever league title triumph.
We all know what happened next, with star fullback Zak Hardaker failing a drugs test and missing the trip to Old Trafford, where Leeds, some of whose players had blossomed under Daryl’s coaching at Headingley, showed all their experience to overrun their neighbours.
You could say Castleford have never been quite the same, and perhaps the path to Friday’s announcement started on that wet night in Manchester.
There is a clear argument that whatever has been achieved, a coach can be at a club too long, and there comes a time when, for the benefit of both parties, a change is needed.
That shouldn’t detract from the superb job Daryl has done at Castleford, who are far from the biggest spenders in Super League.
Given his overall record at Keighley, Leeds, Featherstone and Castleford, there is clearly no doubting his ability as a coach or as a judge of playing talent.
It would be great to see that reflected by Castleford making this season’s play-offs.
My first round predictions
It’s an interesting twist that Powell and Price go head to head when Castleford and Warrington clash on Sunday afternoon in the last match of the opening round of Super League.
There’s an equally intriguing encounter earlier in the day when Hull face Huddersfield in the battle of the two freshly-appointed coaches, Brett Hodgson and Ian Watson.
It’s also a meeting of two talented Aussie halfbacks, Josh Reynolds and Aidan Sezer, and I’m hoping for two really entertaining contests.
I’m going for Castleford to win by ten and Watto’s reshaped Huddersfield side by seven.
It all begins on Friday, when St Helens take on Salford, another side with a new man at the helm, with Richard Marshall taking on the tough task of following Watto.
Marshall, of course, worked with Kristian Woolf at Saints before his switch to Salford.
I think Saints will start their hunt for a third straight title with a straightforward win, by 16, and I’m going Wigan by 22 against Leigh, who already seem beset by problems and have brought in a string of players on loan.
In Saturday’s matches, I think Leeds will beat Wakefield by 16, while I’m saying Hull KR by ten against Catalans.
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