Huddersfield Giants: Potential candidates for next head coach
By Stephen Owen
Last Updated: 17/09/20 1:37pm
Following the sudden departure of Huddersfield coach Simon Woolford on Wednesday the rumour mill on who might replace him went into overdrive.
A Sky Sports Twitter poll showed that 71.3 per cent of Huddersfield fans would have liked Woolford to remain at the club, demonstrating the impressive job he's done since taking over in 2018. However with Woolford now moving on, we take a look at eight potential candidates who may be tasked with taking the Giants back to the summit of Super League.
Luke Robinson is the man currently in the hot seat having been placed in temporary charge following Woolford's departure. As someone who was part of Huddersfield team's that reached the Challenge Cup Final in 2009 and won the League Leaders Shield in 2013, Robinson has been described recently by former Wigan team-mate and Sky Sports pundit Terry O'Connor as someone with a "good understanding of players and how he wants to play the game."
Having been on the coaching staff since the 2016 season following his retirement from playing could we witness the return of the "Luke Robinson fan club" that we used to see in the stands whenever the diminutive half-back took to the field?
Another fans' favourite with the Giants faithful is 2009 Man of Steel winner Brett Hodgson. The former State of Origin player was at his imperious best during his two seasons in the claret and gold, leading the Giants to the 2009 Challenge Cup Final on his way to picking up the award as Super League's best player that season. Hodgson has had several coaching roles since his retirement, most recently as part of the Wests Tigers backroom staff where he currently resides.
Chris Thorman is a former player at the Giants and actually enjoyed a spell in temporary charge before Simon Woolford's arrival at the club. During his brief stint following Rick Stone's tenure the Giants started to show some improvements and while Thorman left the club at the end of 2018, he has shown promise as coach of League One side Workington Town.
Staying with the Huddersfield alumni and could this be the opportunity for Paul Rowley to become a head coach once again? Rowley played for the Giants in 2001 and has enjoyed a successful coaching career in the past winning successive Championship titles with Leigh in 2013 and 2014. The former hooker subsequently became Toronto Wolfpack's first head coach and led the Canadian outfit to the League One title in their maiden season in 2016. He wasn't able to guide them to Super League however, and in 2019 became a part of Ian Watson's Coaching team at Salford that reached their first ever Grand Final.
The man who replaced Rowley at Toronto actually had a brief spell on the Huddersfield backroom staff in the early 2000s following his retirement from the game. Brian McDermott has since gone on to become the most successful coach of the Super League era, winning Grand Finals as the man in charge at Leeds in 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2017.
The former Marine also did what Rowley was unable to do in securing promotion for the Wolfpack to Super League in 2019. McDermott is clearly committed to his role as Toronto coach but if the Wolfpack are denied entry back into the Super League for 2021 it could leave him on the sidelines. A decision on Toronto's re-entry into Super League is expected on September 25 - so watch this space!
A former player under McDermott while in charge at Harlequins was current London coach Danny Ward. A hard-working prop forward during his time as a player, Ward won the 2004 Grand Final with Leeds and is highly-regarded as one of the brightest British coaches. In his first season in charge of London in 2018 the Broncos "shocked the world" by defeating Toronto in Canada to earn their place back in Super League.
Perhaps even more impressive was how Ward so nearly managed to preserve their top-flight status against all the odds, before eventually being relegated on the final weekend of the 2019 regular season. There is no doubt that Ward is heavily invested in London Broncos but when you consider at this stage there is no promotion to Super League for 2021, should a team come knocking with the opportunity to coach once again at the top table, it may be an offer too good to refuse.
Ward's predecessor at London was Australian Andrew Henderson. The Scottish international enjoyed a somewhat nomadic existence as a player but when in charge at the Broncos from 2014 he almost guided London to Super League through the Super 8s system. In 2018 Henderson decided to join Warrington Wolves as assistant coach and his enthusiasm on the sidelines has often been captured by the Sky Sports cameras. Could this be the opportunity for Henderson's first crack as a head coach in Super League?
Another possible contender could be Super League legend Leon Pryce. The former Great Britain and England international won a Super League Grand Final on four occasions while a player at Bradford and St Helens. Pryce's only experience as a head coach in the professional game was in 2018 where he took League One side Workington Town to within 80 minutes of promotion to the Championship. The following season Pryce departed after just six games and has been without a head coaching position in the professional game ever since. However, having recently featured as part of Sky Sports presentation team Pryce has shown a sharp rugby league mind and he has a son in the development system at Huddersfield so will be well acquainted with the club.
Whoever the Giants decide to appoint will be inheriting a squad with a nucleus of homegrown talent and a thriving development pathway. One would think that Huddersfield managing director Richard Thewlis will be inundated with applications of interest and it will be fascinating to see who the Claret and Golds task with making the club capable of challenging for honours once again.