Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Mark Applegarth: Terry O'Connor on a 'shrewd appointment' as head coach by Wakefield Trinity
Betfred Super League club Wakefield Trinity announced former player Mark Applegarth would be stepping up from his head of youth role to succeed Willie Poching as head coach on Wednesday
Last Updated: 14/09/22 5:46pm
Sky Sports rugby league pundit Terry O'Connor explains why he believes Wakefield have made the right call in appointing Mark Applegarth as Willie Poching's successor as head coach...
It's a big call made by Wakefield Trinity to appoint Mark Applegarth as their new head coach, but a call I applaud the CEO, Michael Carter, and chairman, John Minards, for.
There are a lot of similarities between where Wigan Warriors were last year and where Wakefield are this year. That's not in terms of league position, but when Adrian Lam's departure was announced Wigan were left in a position of whether they looked overseas or went for the high-profile one?
- Wakefield appoint Applegarth as head coach after Poching exit
- Poching departs as Trinity head coach
Or, do they appoint someone who knows what the area is like, someone who has been in the system for a long time, knows what it means to the community and knows the majority of the lads, and knows how to get the best out of the young lads coming into the first team?
Matt Peet has done it with Wigan and all of those youngsters who have come through the system, he has had an influence in. Applegarth has been the head of youth at Wakefield since 2017, so for the last five years he's had a big influence in the likes of Yusuf Aydin, Lewis Murphy, James Batchelor, Harry Bowes and Jack Croft.
He's brought through a lot of those young kids and done a tremendous job in the background which no-one really talks about. People also don't realise that if you talk to anyone about how Wakefield's academy has performed over the years, they've always been punching above their weight and competing at the top of the table with the likes of Wigan, St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.
Just because the first team might not have been doing it on the pitch, it doesn't mean everything behind it hasn't been really strong and the bloke you've got to applaud is Applegarth. It's just reward for him to be given that job.
I'm sure some Wakefield fans might think the club have gone for the cheap option and have no ambition, but I think it's the opposite. He's got ambition, he's got a load of youngsters already there and ones who will step up there like prop forward Isaac Shaw - who I think is a really decent player.
There have always been kids who have come through the system at Wakefield and they are one of those clubs which has punched above their weight in that regard. You only have to back and look at how well the academy and reserves have done in recent years.
Everyone in rugby league looks at how the first team is doing, but there is a bigger picture and that is getting kids through the system and keeping hold of them. Losing Tom Johnstone is a massive loss for Wakefield, but they've got Lewis Murphy there to replace him who can score tries just as well.
I'll also bet my bottom dollar a lot of the players who have left wouldn't have left if they'd realised Mark Applegarth was getting the job.
It's a very shrewd appointment. I've known Mark since he was a player at Wakefield and he's spent time in Australia and played for York City Knights as well, but I remember him coming through the system and he was always one of those players who led the way.
His reward now for doing such a good job with all of those young players is getting the head coach's job and let me tell you, he is a well-respected bloke within those walls. I've not spoken to one Wakefield player who doesn't have the utmost respect for him.