What happened to the Cas coach before Daryl Powell?

In 2013, Daryl Powell took over at the Jungle. Since then he has turned them into a formidable force taking them to both the Challenge Cup Final and the Grand Final. However, 2021 will be his last season in charge of the Tigers before he takes over at Warrington. So, now is as good a time as any to contemplate what happened to the man he replaced at Castleford.

That man was Ian Millward arguably Super League’s first super coach. There’s no doubt that he lived and breathed coaching especially as that was all he had when he was forced to retire from the game at just 23 due to a neck injury.

He poured himself into the discipline and after successful stints at Illawarra Western Suburbs, Wollongong University and Illawarra Steelers, he was handed his first major job. In 1998, he took over at struggling Leigh.

The Lancashire club were flirting with relegation to the third tier when Millward stepped in. But as if by magic, Millward transformed them from strugglers to promotion hopefuls. It was a transformation that earned him a move to St Helens in 2000.

He had big shoes to fill. Not only was he replacing legend Ellery Hanley, but Hanley had won the Grand Final just months prior to his departure. It was a tough job facing the former Leigh boss, however his Millward magic again shone through. He masterfully built on the foundations laid by Hanley to turn St Helens into serial winners carefully crafting the legacy of Super League legend Sean Long.

His St Helens side were perhaps encapsulated in the famous ‘Wide to West’ try. It showed the never die attitude he forged at the club and why we still here the famous line: ‘never write off the Saints.’

It was he who turned St Helens into Super League’s first dominant force. In his first season in charge, he guided them to a second successive Super League crown as they defeated League Leaders Wigan at Old Trafford. Challenge Cup success against the same opposition came the following year before Millward took the Saints to yet another Grand Final in 2002. Millward’s St Helens and Brian Noble’s Bradford Bulls produced perhaps the greatest Grand Final we’ve ever seen with Sean Long’s late drop goal the difference between the two teams.

Millward and Noble were Super League’s first major coaching rivalry. The pair had a duopoly over the Super League crown in the early 2000s and it was a pleasure seeing their sides do battle again and again as their conflicting styles brought the best out of one another. Their futures would be intertwined as well.

Millward’s philosophy brought a second Challenge Cup triumph in 2004, but it was clear his dominance over Super League was quickly fading. 2003 had seen Noble’s Bulls claim all the silverware whilst 2004 saw Leeds Rhinos dominate the league and the Saints in a way no one could have ever dreamed of. The Rhinos vanquished Millward’s side 70-0 at Headingley in one of the worst nights in the club’s Super League history.

2005 promised much and began to deliver as his new look St Helens side challenged the Rhinos and the Bulls at the top. However, he was controversially dismissed in May for gross misconduct ushering in the reign of the superb Daniel Anderson.

In a shocking twist of fate, within two weeks he was at the helm of rivals Wigan tasked with reviving the Warriors who had slumped down the league. Ironically, his Wigan side suffered the same fate as his St Helens side a year previously as they lost 70-0 to Leeds at Headingley. Worse though was the 75-0 defeat in the Challenge Cup the following week to former club St Helens.

Things never took off for Millward at Wigan. A slow start to the 2006 campaign saw the Warriors sink to the bottom of the league. Thus, he was relieved of his duties and was replaced by former rival Brian Noble who also failed to take Wigan back to their former glories.

The next few years saw him bounce around clubs as he proved he simply could not stay out of coaching. After a return to Leigh as coaching co-ordinator, he spent time as assistant to Graham Murray at North Queensland before filling in as Head Coach following Murray’s resignation. After that he worked with David Furner at Canberra only to leave mid-way through his two-year deal to take over at Leigh as he again returned to where it all started. However, he couldn’t spark the rival the Centurions needed to take them back to Super League.

He himself returned to the top flight with Castleford in 2012 as he continued to throw himself at every interesting coaching opportunity that came his way. He was tipped for big things at the Jungle however they were sadly derailed by the death of his son in a cruel reminder of the importance of life outside of coaching, of life outside rugby league. He never recovered from that whilst at Cas and, less than two years into his three year deal, he was let go in favour of Daryl Powell.

In 2015 he joined St George Illawarra as assistant coach proving again just how much he truly loved coaching. He’s still at the club to this day now operating as NRL recruitment manager.

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