Super League head coaches come and go, many leave a lasting legacy whilst others go out with a whimper.
With Super League’s 27th season well underway, the 12 top-flight clubs have experienced some movers and shakers.
But, how would each coach be rated?
12. Sylvain Houles – Toulouse Olympique
Previously 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 as Super League begins to take shape in 2022. He is at the bottom of this list purely because his Toulouse side currently sit bottom in the top flight, but there have been some wonderful efforts made by those involved at the French club.
11. Paul Rowley – Salford Red Devils
Like Sylvain Houles above, Rowley had never actually coached in Super League before this season which is rather surprising considering he has been at both Leigh Centurions and Toronto Wolfpack around their golden eras. Salford have been somewhat of an enigma in 2022 – brilliant in patches but awful in others. Rowley has steered the Red Devils away from relegation which was perhaps the main goal at the start of the year, but it remains to be seen if he can inspire a charge beyond that.
10. 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. After a full pre-season to make his mark on his players, however, the results have been mixed. Superb wins against Hull FC and Warrington Wolves offset a disappointing loss to Toulouse with Poching’s Wakefield now six points clear of the bottom-placed club.
9. Rohan Smith – Leeds Rhinos
It’s difficult to gauge a coach that has only been in charge for a month, but Rohan Smith has had a mixed time in charge of Leeds Rhinos since coming in. The former Bradford Bulls boss has won two out of the four games he has led the Rhinos, with big wins over Wakefield Trinity and Warrington Wolves the highlight. Smith also looks to have freed up the likes of Blake Austin and Zak Hardaker which could have major repercussions heading into the final stages of the season. Definitely one to look out for.
8. Lee Radford – Castleford Tigers
It’s been 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 had left a lasting legacy, but Radford put 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 were hoping that he could inspire the Tigers to Wembley success after Powell failed to do so. However, it doesn’t appear as though silverware will be anywhere near in 2022 following a dumping from the Challenge Cup as well as some inconsistent results in the league. Looks likely to be a big rebuild again heading into 2023.
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 has done well under pressure, bringing the Black and Whites into the play-off spots despite some inconsistency in results. Much of Hull’s season now hinges on how Hodgson can deal without Jake Connor as well as working out his best halfback combination.
6. Daryl Powell – Warrington Wolves
It seems remarkable that Daryl Powell is halfway down the pecking order after turning Castleford Tigers from basement dwellers to silverware contenders, but that’s the life of a coach. In 2022, with his new club Warrington Wolves, he has failed to inspire any kind of resilience and their lowly position in the Super League table epitomises this. The club’s hierarchy have backed him to the hilt with a whole host of signings as well as potential recruits so it will be interesting to see how this one unfolds. You don’t become a bad coach overnight, however, and Powell will turn things around at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
5. Ian Watson – Huddersfield Giants
Ian Watson’s first season in charge at the John Smith’s Stadium wasn’t that fruitful. 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 through to the first-team. However, turning that disappointment into absolute carnage in 2022 must be one of Watson’s finest hours as a coach. The Giants are well primed for a shot at Old Trafford and have already appeared in the Challenge Cup Final this year, with youngsters such as Olly Russell and Oliver Wilson excelling under Watson’s stewardship. His stock keeps rising and Watson could well break the top three of coaches in Super League if he carries on.
4. 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, steering 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, even more impressively, the Dragons look well placed to fight for another spot at Old Trafford in 2022.
3. 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 were rightly optimistic of Smith weaving his magic once more in 2022 as Rovers attempted to back it up. However, form fell out the window at the same time that Smith announced he would be leaving Craven Park at the end of the season. Still an incredible coach, though, and he has transformed KR.
2. Matt Peet – Wigan Warriors
Again, another head coach who has started the season with no Super League coaching experience, Matt Peet was 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. However, Peet has taken it all in his stride, winning the Challenge Cup and leading Wigan to a tremendous place in the Super League table. It really has been an incredible start for the Wigan man.
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. And, that class is still shining in 2022 with the Merseyside club sitting pretty at the top of the league.