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Leeds Rhinos-linked Justin Holbrook officially lands new job

Leeds Rhinos Justin Holbrook

Despite being linked to the vacant Leeds Rhinos head coaching position by Jon Wilkin earlier this week, ex-St Helens boss Justin Holbrook has found himself a new job.

Holbrook has resigned from his role as head coach of Papua New Guinea to take on the position of assistant to Mal Meninga with the Australian national team, a move that is widely expected to see the departure of Leigh Leopards head coach Adrian Lam from the Australian setup.

Of course, it is still possible that Holbrook could take on the Leeds Rhinos head coaching role with plenty of international coaches having dedicated club duties as well, Holbrook himself being the Sydney Roosters assistant whilst Adrian Lam split the duties with those at Leigh.

Holbrook’s appointment to the Kangaroos’ setup is a major shakeup from the coaching team that lost to New Zealand 30-0 in the Pacific Championships at the end of 2023, whilst also leaving Pacific Bowl champions Papua New Guinea without their head coach.

The former St Helens boss had only taken on his role with the Kumuls in 2023, winning two of the three games that he coached them for following his surprise sacking by Gold Coast Titans.

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What does Holbrook’s hiring mean for Leeds Rhinos?

Justin Holbrook Leeds Rhinos

Credit: Imago Images

Confirming his resignation from PNG to take on a role with his native Australia, Holbrook explained his decision and thanked the Papua New Guinea RFL for the opportunity in a statement shared by the IRL.

He said: “It is with mixed emotions that I have stepped down as head coach of the Kumuls. I thoroughly enjoyed coaching the team and winning the Pacific Bowl Championships last year in PNG.

“To witness the passion for rugby league from all the players, staff and everyone in their country was unbelievable.

“I have taken up a role as the Australian assistant coach for the Pacific Championships under Mal Meninga for this year’s series against New Zealand and Tonga.

“I want to thank the PNGRFL for the opportunity to be head coach. It was an experience I loved. The PNG people were so welcoming of me to their country. The love that they have for their team, and opposition teams, shows how much Rugby League means to the people of PNG.”

The dates for the Pacific Championships are yet to be announced publicly but they take place in the off-season meaning that Holbrook could be available for Leeds Rhinos for the remainder of the season, if they want to pursue him.

Holbrook was linked to the vacant Leeds Rhinos job by former St Helens captain Jon Wilkin who told The Rugby League Verdict on Sky Sports News that he believed his former coach would be “an amazing appointment for Leeds Rhinos”.

Wilkin said: “I’ll tell you this now, an exquisite coach, like one of the best and I actually think would be an amazing appointment for Leeds Rhinos if they got him in. He could do everything that they wanted him to do.”

Holbrook also appeared on Serious About Rugby League’s list of five outside candidates for the Leeds Rhinos job after the noise surrounding Brad Arthur and Paul Rowley died down.

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