Sometimes there are instances where fans feel a coach has not been given the best chance to prove their worth within Super League. On some occasions, how coaches have ended their time with a certain club can hold them back in future opportunities but more often than not, the door is left open for them to return and have another stab at it, even if that stab is with another club.
It can definitely be said that there are those who deserve either a second, or proper chance, within Super League. All of the individuals in this list were distinguished players in their careers and some have had equally distinguished coaching careers. There is a chance that some of them could return to a coaching role within Super League.
Below there are six candidates that fit this criteria, although given how many coaches there have been in Super League, this is not a definitive list. Can you see any of these men returning to Super League?
Despite the fact that something was going wrong at Headingley in 2018, the way Brian McDermott was unceremoniously shoved out of the door half way through the season did not sit well with many rugby fans. If he had been sacked at the end of the season things could have been put in place to celebrate what he achieved at the Rhinos therefore congratulating him on a tenure that made him one of the most successful coaches of all time. Needless to say, this did not happen and 2018 remained a write-off for the Rhinos. McDermott had taken his first head coaching job with Harlequins RL but with their win percentage decreasing season by season, McDermott left to join a Leeds team that had been awash with success under Brian McClennan who was a firm fan favourite. After initial resentment from Leeds fans who memorably booed him due to a drop in performance, it was not to last long. Steering Leeds to four Super League titles, a League Leaders’ Shield, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge title, not forgetting the treble in 2015, Brian McDermott has a resumé that is exemplary. Since Leeds, McDermott has made the headlines for completely different reasons and after the collapse of Toronto Wolfpack, he is a free agent where every market is open to him. It cannot be denied that he would be a welcome edition back into Super League somewhere and with a head coaching job becoming vacant at Warrington at the end of the year, could we see him back?
As well as McDermott’s ill-undertaken ousting, Lee Radford’s was not exactly respectful either. Making headlines around the world after he was effectively sacked live on TV, it was not seen as a popular move by the Black & Whites. However, similar to McDermott at Leeds, something needed to change at Hull after a hit and miss reigniting of proceedings that carried on from the end of the 2019 season. After losing to Warrington in poor fashion with a score line of 38-4, Hull owner Adam Pearson confirmed in a post-match interview that Radford had been sacked with immediate effect. It really was a sad way for him to go especially as he had coached Hull to back-to-back Challenge Cup victories in 2016 and 2017. After the dust had settled he was able to look at the offers being thrown his way and Radford has since been appointed as defensive coach for the Dallas Jackals in Texas, USA. The Jackals were due to join the Major League Rugby (MLA) league in 2021 but have pushed back their entry to 2022 so it will be a while yet before Radford starts to make a name for himself in the world of American Rugby Union. If it doesn’t pay off for him or he wants to come back to Super League, rest assured that there will be many clubs wanting to snap him up.
In the early 2000s Brian Noble was at the top of the coaching pecking order in this country. The former Bradford Northern legend would lead the rebranded Bradford Bulls to the heights of glory in Super League, winning three Super League titles, three World Club Challenge titles, two League Leaders’ Shields, and one Challenge Cup. Within this time he achieved a win percentage of 76% which is why Bradford were the kings of the British game from 2001-2006. When Noble left the Bulls it truly was an end of an era not only for him but for Bradford as well; never again would either repeat the feats of the past. He left to take up the head coaching role at a decimated Wigan side who were battling to save their place in the top flight. With Noble on board they began to gain traction and he was solely credited with saving Wigan from entering the Championship, despite the dubious way the salary cap was negotiated in his time there. Nevertheless, he had done the job he was asked to do and left Wigan after four years in charge. A quick foray into Wales with the Celtic Crusaders lasted only a year, despite a notable play-off spot being secured which was no doubt due to Noble. Then in 2013 after a break of three years, Noble announced he would take on the head coaching role at Salford. In his second year with the club, owner Marwan Koukash appointed Iestyn Harris as head coach hoping Noble would become Director of Rugby. He didn’t and Noble parted ways with Salford during the 2014 season. Until a few years ago Noble was not involved with any club at all at any level and he was a regular pundit with the BBC and Sky. But as more and more rumblings were starting to come out of Toronto, Noble was lured back to rugby league and became the Director of Rugby at the Toronto Wolfpack in 2016 until the club folded halfway through last season. As is evidenced by his career choices since Bradford, Noble should be admired for taking up challenges, focusing on creating a team to be reckoned with rather than bulldozing his way to title after title. Super League would love to see Noble back and there are a fair few teams who would too but whether this will happen remains to be seen.
Dave Furner had a very short tenure in his first head coaching role in Super League, only amassing 14 games as boss of Leeds Rhinos. This ties the record set by Malcolm Clift who was sacked by Leeds after the same game tally in 1985. As the 2019 season loomed upon a Leeds Rhinos team that was all change and no charge, bringing in Dave Furner was seen as the best option and, on paper, few could argue with this. Furner had more than proved himself to be an excellent rugby player in Australia with the Canberra Raiders and during his nine years there he had appeared 200 times and scored 1218 points. For a second rower this is very impressive and he currently sits in the top 40 of the highest NRL point scorers of all time just below Benji Marshall. From Canberra he would play in Super League for the Wigan Warriors where he won a Challenge Cup, and then his move to Leeds Rhinos culminated in a Grand Final winners’ ring. He retired from rugby at the end of the 2004 season before moving back to Australia. In 2006, he became the assistant coach at his former NRL club the Canberra Raiders and the eventual head coach in 2009. Furner was patchy at best in his time at Canberra and was sacked three games before the end of the 2013 season, having succeeded in only being known for coaching the Raiders to their longest run of consecutive losses in the clubs history. He would have more success however with his assistant coaching roles with Premiership winning North Queensland Cowboys and then at South Sydney Rabbitohs, but Leeds made him a better offer of a three-year coaching deal. Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield has openly said that Furner was the man he wanted for the Rhinos and huge expectations were placed on a team that was not strong enough to bear it. It was a complete disaster for Furner and he returned to Australia a little more than sheepish. He is now the current assistant coach at Newcastle Knights. Despite this though, Furner is a man who should be given another shot in Super League. The pressure on Leeds was too great and it ended up being far too messy. If he secured a role with a side without that pressure then it would be a far more professionally profitable arrangement for the club and Furner. Whether he would make the move again is unclear, but we could still yet see Dave Furner in his quest for Super League redemption.
One of the workhorses during the time when the Bulls were in contention for everything, Paul Anderson had a reputation for big hits and hard runs during his most famous years as a player for Bradford. Under Brian Noble he won every major club award there is to win and when he left Bradford to play for St. Helens, he won a further Challenge Cup and another Super League trophy. As a coach in more recent years he has been heavily involved with the England squad as assistant coach and is the head coach for the England Knights. His one and only Super League head coaching role came with Huddersfield Giants between 2013 and 2016 and at the start it looked like Anderson would take Huddersfield to heights they had never reached before. In his first year in charge they were successful in winning their first League Leaders’ Shield in 80 years and reached the semi-finals of the play-offs, eventually losing 30-22 against Warrington. The following season Anderson got Huddersfield to within one point of reclaiming the League Leaders’ Shield but the award would go to St. Helens instead. In the play-offs, they lost both of their qualifying games, getting hammered by Wigan 57-4, and then narrowly losing to Catalans 18-16. Huddersfield would finish fourth in 2015, but would once again lose to Wigan in the semi-final, yet it cannot be said that these were unsuccessful years for the Giants. However, in 2016, they only managed to win four of their opening 18 games which led to the sacking of Paul Anderson as well as his assistant coach Kieron Purtill. Needless to say, the Giants would finish at the bottom of the Super League table. Such a catastrophic turnaround in events indicate some serious problems, but despite this, Paul Anderson should not be remembered for that season as the three before have been some of the club’s best. His coaching duties with Huddersfield and England show that he is a very capable coach that Super League would be pleased to see back in a head coaching role.
James Webster is a man who has fallen slightly under the radar since the end of his playing days in 2010. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Webster made his professional debut with the Balmain Tigers and then the Parramatta Eels, before making the move to Super League with Hull Kingston Rovers where he would have his most success as a player. His year with cross-city rivals Hull FC was forgettable (he only played one game) and then he had a two-season run with Widnes before retiring. Instead of going back to Australia, he chose to stay in the UK to focus on coaching. What is striking about his coaching career is that he hasn’t been given the chance to really prove himself. Within his coaching jobs he has only ever taken the top spot once with Wakefield in 2014 although he did succeed in keeping them in Super League. When he was given the role at Hull KR it was only on an interim basis before Tim Sheens took the job. What he has achieved though is years’ worth of assistant coaching experience. He has worked mainly alongside Richard Agar at Wakefield, then again at Leeds and was also the assistant coach under Sheens at Hull KR. Webster’s big test is in the here and now, having secured the head coaching role at Featherstone Rovers. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 and the cancelling of the Championship season last year, 2021 will be the first season where we can see what James Webster has learnt in his career. As Featherstone are pushing for a Super League spot this season, we may yet see James Webster return to the top-flight.