League Express editor MARTYN SADLER looks at the potential candidates for the Warrington Wolves head coaching role after Steve Price steps down at the end of the year.
Last night Warrington Wolves confirmed that their current head coach, Steve Price, will leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the current Rugby League season.
Price joined the club in succession to Tony Smith prior to the start of the 2018 season.
In his first year in charge the Wolves reached the finals of both major trophies, losing to the Catalans Dragons in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, and then going down to Wigan in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.
The following year they defeated St Helens in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, but were eliminated at home by Castleford Tigers in the opening week of the Super League play-offs.
In 2020 the fell to a 22-24 defeat to Salford in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, before going out of the Super League play-offs at the first attempt to Hull FC.
No doubt Price would like to leave the Halliwell Jones Stadium with another trophy to his name, but meanwhile there is sure to be speculation about who will be his successor.
Here are the candidates as I see them.
When Lee Briers was forced to bring his illustrious Warrington career to an end in 2013 because of injury, he was immediately appointed as the club’s Academy coach. Then, in 2025 he was appointed an assistant first-team coach to run alongside his Academy responsibilities. In December 2016, he was then appointed as the club’s reserve-grade coach. All those appointments were under the club’s then head-coach Tony Smith.
In February 2017 Briers was appointed the head-coach of the England Academy team and, after the arrival of Price in 2018, he continued seamlessly with his assistant’s role under Price.
If Warrington decide to promote from within, they would appear to have an eminently qualified contender for the job in Briers, as well as appointing one of the club’s favourite sons.
And Warrington have an equally well qualified coach ready to step into the breach in Andrew Henderson, who is also currently an assistant to Price at the club.
Unlike Briers, Henderson already has first-grade coaching experience, On 11 July 2014 the then London Broncos head coach Joe Grima appointed Henderson as his assistant, beginning in November. In March the following year Grima resigned and Henderson took charge of the Championship side on an interim basis. After two games in charge he was appointed as the Broncos new permanent head coach.
He coached the Broncos for three seasons until 2017, giving Warrington the fright of their lives when going down 38-40 at the Trailfinders Stadium in the Super 8s of that year, and at the end of that season the Wolves announced that he would join the club to become Price’s assistant coach. He has performed that role for the last three seasons.
London Broncos coach Danny Ward already has experience of coaching a Super League team, having taken the Broncos to promotion in his first season in charge in 2018 and then narrowly failing to avoid relegation in a thrilling campaign in 2019.
Under Ward, the Broncos play an exciting style of rugby and he coaches with a smile on his face, which would no doubt go down well with Warrington supporters.
Coincidentally, Ward’s current contract with the Broncos runs until the end of the 2021 season, so any approach that the Wolves might make for him would not involve the club in paying compensation for breaking a club contract.
Before leaving Hull at the end of the 2020 season, Last had spent his whole career, both as a player and as a coach in various capacities, with his hometown club. But despite Hull having some good performances under his direction, reaching the Super League play-offs and registering a 27-14 win against Warrington in the opening week of the play-offs, Hull owner Adam Pearson decided to move in a different direction and went for Brett Hodgson as his new head coach, with Last deciding to leave the club.
Last, however, has shown himself to be a smart technician while in charge at Hull and he is a member of the England coaching team under Shaun Wane, indicating that he is held in high regard across the game.
Current England coach Shaun Wane is focused purely on England’s World Cup campaign for the rest of 2021, but after the tournament ends he would perhaps be interested in returning to club coaching.
Wane coached Wigan for seven seasons, from 2012 to 2018, winning the double in 2013 and ending his Wigan career by beating Warrington in the 2018 Grand Final.
Wane would undoubtedly be the most high-profile potential appointee, particularly if he is successful in winning the World Cup with England.
After the frustration of coaching England in so few games, it wouldn’t be surprising if Wane were anxious to return to coaching on a week-to-week basis.
Of the Australian coaches with top-line experience, Shane Flanagan looks to be one of the most likely contenders.
Flanagan coached the Cronulla Sharks to the NRL Premiership for the first time in the history of that club in 2016. He was subsequently suspended by the NRL for not adhering to the terms of a previous suspension after the 2013 NRL investigation into the Sharks’ supplements programme, and is not allowed to be a head coach again until the 2022 season.
But his coaching skills are highly regarded by several clubs in the NRL and he would have the added advantage of an inside knowledge of NRL players who may be recruitment targets for the Wolves.
And most Rugby League fans will not recall that Flanagan has been in Super League before, having been the assistant coach to Stuart Raper at Castleford in 1997.
Paul Green coached the North Queensland Cowboys to an NRL Premiership title in 2015, when they became the first team to beat the Brisbane Broncos in a Grand Final.
He has the most wins of any coach in the Cowboys’ history, but he stepped down from the role in July last year and earlier this month he signed a one-year contract to coach Queensland in this year’s State of Origin series, with Queensland having an option in its favour for 2022.
Green is another coach who is highly regarded in the NRL and his signing would be an undoubted coup for the Wolves, if they were to go after him and succeed in recruiting him.