Rugby League talking points: Justin Holbrook's future; Rangi Chase comeback; Keighley Cougars' pride
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 15/07/19 11:28am
Justin Holbrook's future at St Helens, a return for one of the sport's mavericks and a historic day at Keighley Cougars all feature in this week’s talking points.
Holbrook stays coy on future
There can be no doubt about how St Helens' fans feel about Justin Holbrook as they serenaded him with a chant of "we want you to stay" following last Friday's 32-10 derby victory at home to Wigan Warriors.
The Saints head coach is out of contract at the end of the current Super League season, having been with the club since taking over from Keiron Cunningham midway through the 2017 campaign.
However, NRL sides Canterbury Bulldogs and Gold Coast Titans have been linked with approaches to lure Holbrook back to his native Australia after two-and-a-half years on these shores.
The 43-year-old was grateful to the supporters for showing their backing, but he has yet to make a decision on whether he will extend his stay at the Totally Wicked Stadium or return home.
"I have always appreciated the fans and it is great to hear that," Holbrook said.
"It gets me a bit emotional because I love the place, but I have no update. We'll see what happens over the next couple of weeks.
"It's great, obviously, but I've got the players to thank for that because of the way they're playing. It makes it easier for me."
Salford make a statement
That win for St Helens saw them extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points, with nearest rivals Warrington Wolves coming unstuck at home to Salford Red Devils for the second time this season.
Krisnan Inu led the way for the visitors with two tries and three conversions in a 22-12 victory away to the second-placed Wolves, keeping the Red Devils within striking distance of the top five in Super League.
It was the perfect response to a disappointing home defeat against struggling Huddersfield Giants eight days prior and Salford head coach Ian Watson is optimistic his side can make a sustained push for the play-offs in the closing weeks of the regular season.
"It's a big statement to come to Warrington twice and win, and hopefully that will kick us on for the rest of the season," Watson said.
"It's a big win for us, and we are still in with a chance of the play-offs and our destiny is in our own hands.
"Our next three games are massive for us as a club to decide where we want to go as we could easily have been dragged down into the relegation fight."
Wilkin backs Wolfpack for Super League
A pulsating 22-18 victory at home to Featherstone Rovers on Saturday means Toronto Wolfpack are now certain of a place in the Championship play-offs with six games of the regular season remaining.
The Canadian side are firm favourites to secure promotion to Super League for 2020 after missing out to London Broncos in a close-fought Million Pound Game last year.
The Wolfpack's presence in the British professional game has not been without controversy, but Jon Wilkin - who is in his first season with them after signing from St Helens - is in no doubt Toronto would enhance the top flight.
"There's some rugby to be played yet and there's also some political stuff going on within the game so we'll have to see how it plays out, but Toronto would be an unbelievable asset for Super League, I have no doubt about that," Wilkin said.
"I think Super League would be a better competition for having Toronto in it, having been out to Canada and seen the appetite for the game there.
"To be stopped in the streets in Canada by people who had no interest in rugby league whatsoever who now understand what rugby league is, I think that's huge."
Featherstone's LD Nutrition Stadium witnessed the comeback of one of the modern era's mavericks on Sunday when Doncaster faced Whitehaven in League One.
Rangi Chase was back in action for the first time after completing a two-year ban for testing positive for cocaine, having signed for Doncaster in May.
The 33-year-old half-back managed a try on his bow for the club at their temporary home, but unfortunately there was no fairy-tale finish as they fell 22-12 defeat at home to table-topping Haven.
Former England international Chase, who had spells with Castleford Tigers, Salford, Leigh Centurions and Widnes Vikings, is glad to be back though.
"I've had to change things because I was out of shape when I signed, now I'm in good condition after plenty of work in the gym," Chase said.
"I had a lot of training on my own, I took it upon myself to eat right and train hard so now it's just about settling into the team."
Cougars show their pride
They have long been regarded as a trailblazing club following the Cougarmania era and Keighley Cougars carved out another piece of history on Sunday.
The League One side held a PRIDE party and festival as part of the home clash with West Wales Raiders, which included a pre-match drag performance, festivities throughout the day and the Keighley players wearing a specially-commissioned rainbow kit during the 50-18 win.
Cougars co-owner Ryan O'Neill and husband Kaue Garcia are believed to be the only openly gay couple to own a professional sports team, and O'Neill wants to send out the message all are welcome at the club.
"We plan to put the club at the heart of our Keighley community and our RFL family, making it as accessible, inclusive and fun as possible," O'Neill, whose father Mick led the club's Cougarmania revolution, said.
"We want to be the club to watch, the one challenging perceptions of the sport, and the one that sets the standards and gets everyone talking like Cougarmania did 30 years ago."