“I’ve loved every minute of it” – Kristian Woolf conducts final interview as St Helens boss

It’s fair to say that Kristian Woolf’s time as Head Coach of St Helens has been a resounding success as he leaves the club a three-time Grand Final winner as well as a triumph in the Challenge Cup in 2021.

However, if you rewind to March 2020 it looked as if the task was too big for Woolf after taking over from a highly successful coach in Justin Holbrook with Saints looking far from the side who dominated the league in 2019.

Woolf sat down with Saints TV one more time to look after his past three years at the club and how he has found his time in England.

“I’m going to look back on my time in England, in general, extremely fondly,” he said. “Its been a great three years and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

When Holbrook left St Helens in 2019 they were on cloud nine after their first Grand Final success since 2014, showing irrepressible form throughout that whole season. The prospect of taking on an already well-drilled team didn’t deter Woolf.

“I’ve always worked on what excites me the most and that was certainly the case with St Helens,” he added.

“I always had an idea in my head I’d like to do some time in England as well and experience that lifestyle and different culture and that coincided to what I could see in St Helens.”

However, Saints lost three of their opening six fixtures to start the 2020 season which was the same amount of games they lost throughout the whole of 2019.

Before the season was postponed due to Covid-19, St Helens lost back-to-back games against Huddersfield and Castleford, a period which Woolf himself admits was difficult.

“That Cas day was a tough day,” Woolf admitted. “It was always going to be a tough challenge with taking over from Justin Holbrook as he did such an outstanding job.

“It was a new personality and I had different ideas. I definitely made some mistakes.”

The break seemed to come at the best time for Woolf and his team as they came back from the postponement a completely different unit, blitzing through the rest of the league on their way to a second consecutive Grand Final.

Everyone knows how that final ended with Jack Welsby’s dramatic winner after the hooter and Woolf recalls that moment and the celebrations which ensued.

“I thought Tommy had kicked it and then when the ball bounces and Jack puts it down, it’s a feeling I’ll never forget. I’d never won a senior Grand Final before and the whole experience is something I’ll never forget.

“What probably matched that feeling was walking into the dressing room after the game and being able to listen to songs like James – Sit Down, I’d never heard that song before and now it’s one of my favourites.”

Saints went on to enjoy Grand Final success with Woolf once again in 2021 beating Catalans Dragons 12-10 before making it a hattrick for the Australian and four in a row for the club this season.

Winning three titles in a row is special but Woolf believes 2022 was his personal favourite.

“This one (2022) has a really special feeling to it and if I had to split the three I’d possibly lean towards this year.

“The reason I’m really proud of this year is we have had a lot of changes, only six players played this year who was here for the 2019 Grand Final and I think that gets lost a little bit.

“We’ve transitioned enormously as a team. There’s been times this year when we had 10/11 first team players out.”

Not only was he successful in creating history in Super League, Woolf was also at the helm as St Helens won their first Challenge Cup since 2009.

He recalled: “We tried to take as much pressure off the team. Being able to walk down Wembley Way and being able to do all those things in the lead up was outstanding.

“Walking into the stadium that day it has a breathtaking feel about it. Everything about it was a great experience. It was one of those occasions I’ll take with me forever.”

Woolf leaves St Helens as one of the most successful coaches in the Super League era and has left his mark on the Rugby League in this country forever.

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