Hull KR Head Coach Tony Smith is looking ahead to a massive landmark on Monday as he leads a Super League team as a coach for the 500th time.
It is a first as well for him as he takes on Toulouse in Super League for the first time just days after a Hull derby.
Speaking of the city of Hull, he’s loved by at least half of the city due to the positivity he’s brought back to the Robins and that’s just one place where he’s loved. He’s adored at Leeds for beginning the Golden Generation and ending a 32-year wait for a championship whilst at Warrington he finally fulfilled their potential making them one of the best teams in the league leading them to silverware and a first Grand Final.
But, reflecting on his career, Smith said that his time at Huddersfield are the most memorable years of his career.
“Fortunately I got that chance at Huddersfield and I’m very grateful for that,” Smith remembered his first coaching opportunity, “To take over that team I was ready to try and turn that club around. It wasn’t an overnight success, far from it. We lost the first 13 of the first season before we got a point against London. It was as good as winning a Grand Final after 13 defeats straight. Then we had a really strong finish to the season but we did get relegated.
“Then to be undefeated the following year and to come back up, those two experiences back-to-back years I remember talking to my older brother Brian about it and he said ‘you’re so lucky to have those two completely opposite kind of years.’ One that’s tough to keep a team together in those kind of circumstances and the other one almost as equally as tough to keep a team focused on doing the right thing. And he went ‘those two seasons will stand you well for your coaching career’ and he was right.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have been through some struggles because if you coach long enough you’ll have some struggles and I had that in my first year so I was very lucky to get that in so early.
“What those 13 defeats reinforced is what’s my job. My job’s to improve people and I kept my job because the team was improving. It was there you could see it. I got no grief from the admin, the bosses, the spectators because they could see the team improving. We weren’t winning, we weren’t good enough to beat a lot of teams in that competition but the team we had were visibly getting better and that’s how I kept my job.
“At the halfway mark we stopped looking at the regular table and we made our own table. We said ‘that’s our first point of the season – 13 games to go’ and in the second half of the season we came sixth in a pretty good competition that we were way behind in. So, we were improving all the time and the people who employed me saw that.
“They’re probably the two most memorable years of my career.”