A Cas lad, Paul Anderson lived the dream of just about every youngster from the old pit town – a town that lives and breathes rugby league. And so did he. His philosophies, attitude and approach to the game spoke of his winning mentality and saw him accomplish just about everything in the game.
Anderson started his career at Leeds before moving to Halifax. However, it was his move to Bradford that unlocked his potential in 1997.
Affectionately nicknamed ‘Baloo’ he became a key part of Super League’s biggest and meanest pack at Odsal. He helped take Bradford to the second ever Grand Final in 1999 and returned with the Bulls in 2001 as they produced the most dominant Grand Final performance ever to vanquish Wigan 37-6.
The honours kept coming for Anderson as he proved to be a player that simply bred success. He was part of the first team ever to win the treble as the Bradford pack took the Bulls to all three major honours in 2003. That was just the latest in a long line of accolades for the prop forward who by this point had played for both Great Britain and England even representing his country in a World Cup.
His time at Bradford ended in bitter disappointment as they lost his final game against Yorkshire rivals Leeds at Old Trafford as the Rhinos claimed their first Super League title.
A move to St Helens followed where he proved that his qualities could perpetuate success at virtually any club. In his first year at Knowsley Road, St Helens turned things around after a couple of disappointing seasons to claim top spot. Unfortunately, the Grand Final alluded Anderson and the Saints but in his final season as a professional he’d become the first man to win the treble twice and with two different clubs along with Leon Pryce.
The Saints dominated the 2006 season and should be considered the most dominant treble-winning side in Super League history. They cruised to top spot finishing 8 points above second place having won 24 out of their 28 league games. He featured as St Helens battered Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup Final. Then in his final game Anderson started at prop as St Helens brutalised Hull FC to claim a fifth Super League title. That was his fifth Grand Final appearance and his third triumph in the decider.
He then retired and became assistant coach at Huddersfield Giants who were struggling to achieve the success they so desperately craved. Interestingly, in his absence, St Helens’ golden touch when it came to winning big games deserted them as they’d lose the next five Grand Finals in a row. Had Anderson still been playing bringing that desire, that need for success he always did to the middle of the park the St Helens faithful wouldn’t have suffered such heartache.
Having done everything as a player, one of Super League’s most underrated players of all-time turned to coaching. The Giants struggled in his first two seasons as assistant leading to him taking over towards the end of 2008. During his brief stint in charge, he showed his golden touch wasn’t limited to his time as a player as the Giants finished the year strongly.
Not yet ready to take the reigns as Head Coach, he remained as assistant when Nathan Brown came in. Between the two the pair fashioned Huddersfield into a competitive side. They finished 3rd in their first season together and even made it to Wembley. Three more play-off appearances followed as the Giants became a mainstay in the top 8.
At the end of 2012 Nathan Brown left to take over at St Helens leaving Anderson to take charge of the Giants. He instantly gave Huddersfield the attributes that had seen him be so successful as a player.
The Giants became one of the most ruthless, physical and defensively resolute teams Super League has ever seen as they dominated the competition. Their opening day win summed up their brilliance as they thrashed St Helens 40-4 in their own backyard defeating their former coach in the process.
Huddersfield would claim the League Leaders’ Shield with a game to spare as Anderson became the first coach in a generation to lead Huddersfield to silverware. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan in the play-offs however they did produce one of the best attacking displays in play-off history as the Giants stuffed Hull FC 76-18.
Lacking the resources of many of his rivals, Anderson and his Giants continued to challenge at the top. They finished in the top four in 2014 and in 2015 could’ve claimed a second League Leaders’ Shield on the final day had they beaten Leeds and if Wigan had lost to Castleford. It wasn’t to be but a 3rd place finish signified another impressive season for the Giants.
Unfortunately, major injuries during the 2016 season saw the Giants struggle and he was harshly relieved of his position. Since his departure, Huddersfield haven’t competed at the level he took them to again. Giants fans will be hoping the arrival of Ian Watson can change that. However he’ll have to do something special to top what Anderson achieved.
In 2016 Anderson began working with the England team before moving on to coach the England Knights. Given the many Knights who have since become full English internationals, it seems clear he’s the perfect man for the job as he passes on the secrets of success to the next generation. Warrington will be hoping he can also do the same in their academy as he’s also their Under 19s coach.
No matter what Anderson does next, ‘Baloo’ will always be remembered for giving Huddersfield – the birthplace of rugby league – a team they could be proud of and bringing success wherever he went.