St Helens have confirmed that Kristian Woolf will return home at the end of the current Betfred Super League season to take up a new challenge in Australia in 2023, thought to be with the new Dolphins NRL club that will enter the Telstra Premiership for the first time in 2023, with Woolf likely to work as an assistant to Wayne Bennett at the new club.
Woolf, who has just short of an 80% win ratio, steered St Helens to back-to-back Super League titles in 2020 and 2021, the latter of which also included a first Betfred Challenge Cup for 13 years.
This season he led the Saints to their first League Leaders’ Shield since 2019 and will hope to end his Saints stay with a third Grand Final winners’ ring and a record fourth in a row for the club.
Woolf, 47, will stay in England this autumn to coach Tonga in the World Cup. Since taking over the reins of the South Pacific nation, he has improved Tonga’s world ranking from 14th to 2nd. His tenure has also included guiding them to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2017.
“This has not been an easy decision for myself or my family, but it’s time for us to return home,” said Woolf.
“We made a decision a little while ago due to personal factors that have played their part in our decision. The timing has also combined with an opportunity that has arisen in Australia.
“I have been here for three years and I have loved every minute of it. I love the club and what it has provided for both me and my family. The fans have been great with me, the passion they show and the way they support the club is terrific. They have also made my family feel at home and have welcomed us into the community and on behalf of my family I want to thank them for that.
“I also want to pay thanks to the St Helens board, staff and my players. It has been a privilege to work with this exceptional group of men who are all extremely driven and worked so hard to achieve the success they have.
“The hardest thing is having to leave an exceptional group who buy into what you want them to do and are great players and people. What I love about them is how they compete and have a relentless attitude every week. That is extremely hard to say goodbye to. This is the same for the staff, who are great people to work with and are all on the same page, working closely together to move in the same direction.
“They have all helped me become a better coach and, whilst I am returning back home, my complete focus is ensuring I play my small part in helping this group achieve success this season.”
Chairman of St.Helens, Eamonn McManus said: “Kristian has been phenomenal for St Helens for the last three years in every way and at every level.
“He has not just been at the helm during an immensely successful time for the team, but has also imbued a deep sense of honesty, trust, commitment and hard work throughout the club. We have all benefited from his presence and personality and thank him for it.
“We understand and fully respect his decision to leave at the end of the season and wish him and his family every happiness and success in their lives back home in Australia. He is an exceptional person and coach.
“We are well advanced in the selection process for a replacement Head Coach for next season and are very confident in the continuing improvement and success of our club in the years ahead.”
Woolf will depart for home at the conclusion of Tonga’s World Cup commitments in November.
St Helens will make no further comment on Woolf’s replacement until the conclusion of the current season.