Super League head coaches come and go, many leave a lasting legacy whilst others go out with a whimper.
With preparations for Super League’s 27th season underway, the 12 top-flight bosses will gearing up towards a big 2o22.
But, how would each coach be rated on paper?
12. Sylvain Houles – Toulouse Olympique
Untested in Super League, Sylvain Houles has been Toulouse’s man at the helm since 2012 – a remarkable stint of nine years which makes him the longest lasting head coach in Super League going into the 2022 season. He is at the bottom of this list purely because he has never taken charge of a game in the top flight.
11. Paul Rowley – Salford Red Devils
With Paul Rowley now confirmed as being the one to take over at Salford Red Devils, his name occupies this spot. Like Sylvain Houles above, Rowley has never actually coached in Super League which is rather surprising considering he has been at both Leigh Centurions and Toronto Wolfpack around their golden eras. Whether the decision to appoint Rowley or not will be a good one remains to be seen, but he does have a good team around him which includes former Leigh boss Kurt Haggerty.
10. Matt Peet – Wigan Warriors
Again, another head coach who has no Super League coaching experience, Matt Peet will already be under pressure to perform following a dismal end to the year for Wigan Warriors in 2021. After guiding Wigan to a Grand Final back in 2020, Adrian Lam’s side underperformed dramatically in 2021 despite finishing fourth in the Super League table. A first round exit in the Super League play-offs capped off a dreadful year, with Lam agreeing to leave the club. Now, Peet has his work cut out to transform a side that scored the least points in the league in 2021.
9. Willie Poching – Wakefield Trinity
Taking over from the sacked Chris Chester towards the back end of the 2021 season, Willie Poching set off something of a revival at Wakefield with five wins from their final seven games. Having done so well with Trinity on a limited budget, Poching was handed the reins on a permanent basis by chief executive Michael Carter. Now, with a full pre-season to make his mark on his players, who knows what 2022 may bring for the West Yorkshire side.
8. Brett Hodgson – Hull FC
There’s hardly a surprise that Brett Hodgson sits this low down in the pecking order considering the miserable season Hull FC endured in 2021. Things couldn’t have started much brighter for the Airlie Birds, but COVID and injuries hampered Hodgson’s maiden year, with nine losses from their final ten games consigning Hull to ninth place. With an owner on the warpath for better in 2022, Hodgson will have to buck up his side’s ideas.
7. Ian Watson – Huddersfield Giants
If this article had been written before last season then Ian Watson would have been a lot higher after guiding Salford to a Grand Final in 2019 and then a Challenge Cup Final in 2020. In 164 games at the Red Devils, Watson won 80 – just shy of 50% – which is an incredible feat considering the lack of resources and manpower at the AJ Bell Stadium. He was, therefore, considered a huge coup for Huddersfield, but Watson’s first season in charge could not really have gone much worse. The Giants finished ninth with just nine wins from 24 games – though glimpses of his superb man-management came to the fore towards the back end of the season with the likes of Will Pryce emerging.
6. Lee Radford – Castleford Tigers
It’s all change at the Jungle for the 2022 Super League season, with Lee Radford taking over the reins in place of Daryl Powell. After eight-and-a-half seasons at the club, Powell has left a lasting legacy, but Radford is already putting his own stamp on the side with eight new signings and six outgoings. With back-to-back Challenge Cup successes under his belt at Hull FC, the Castleford faithful will be hoping that he can inspire the Tigers to Wembley success after Powell failed to do so. Although his exit from Hull FC was less than favourable, Radford will be given time to weave his magic at the Jungle.
5. Daryl Powell – Warrington Wolves
If 2020 and 2021 hadn’t have been so disappointing at Castleford, then Daryl Powell would surely have been higher up in the pecking order. However, for two seasons in a row, the Tigers finished outside the play-offs with a dreadful run of form consigning Powell’s men to the Super League doldrums. A Challenge Cup final appearance did occur in 2021, but yet again the Tigers finished short. It remains to be seen whether the former Featherstone boss can inspire silverware success at Warrington, but Powell lost three finals in his time at Castleford.
4. Richard Agar – Leeds Rhinos (with no new head coach appointed, we’ve gone with Agar’s previous record)
Richard Agar is somewhat of a quandary as a head coach. Far from popular at Hull FC and Wakefield, he has somehow transformed that reputation with a Challenge Cup success in 2020 with Leeds and a semi-final play-off in 2021. With less than 50% win rates at FC and Trinity, Agar’s appointment at the Rhinos was perhaps surprising. He has, however, justified that choice with 21 wins from 36 games and a trophy-winning year in 2020. It was more disappointing in 2021, but Agar’s men were decimated by injuries and still managed to find that extra gear necessary to almost make it to Old Trafford.
3. Steve McNamara – Catalans Dragons
Surprisingly, Steve McNamara was joint-favourite with Chris Chester to lose his job first ahead of the 2021 Super League season, even though the former England coach took Catalans to the play-offs in 2020. McNamara soon destroyed any chances of his sacking with a superb season, whereby he steered the Dragons to the League Leaders’ Shield and the club’s first-ever Grand Final. It was a truly remarkable feat with McNamara’s side coming within a whisker of creating incredible history and he rightly deserves a place in the top three.
2. Tony Smith – Hull KR
Prior to the 2021 Super League season, Tony Smith had won just nine games from 32 in charge of Hull KR, with a win percentage of just 28%. However, much has changed in the season just passed with Smith inspiring his chargers to a superb play-off spot and then a semi-final clash against the Catalans Dragons. A superb 19-0 victory over Warrington Wolves in the elimination play-off capped off a wonderful year and KR fans can be rightly optimistic of Smith weaving his magic once more in 2022 as Rovers attempt to back it up.
1. Kristian Woolf – St Helens
There can really only be one winner. Two Grand Final victories in successive years, along with a Challenge Cup success in 2021 hands Kristian Woolf the top spot – and no one can begrudge that positioning. St Helens have been utterly fantastic in recent seasons, but when Justin Holbrook left at the end of 2019, the rugby league fraternity questioned whether or not the Lancashire club could go to the next level. Well, their questions have been answered emphatically as Woolf has transformed Saints into a different class of team compared with the rest of Super League.