Ian Millward became the second Super League coaching casualty of the season on Tuesday when he was relieved of his duties at Castleford Tigers following a succession of – excuse the pun – maulings.
The Tigers sit rooted to the foot of the Super League table with just one win, albeit a superb one over reigning champions Leeds Rhinos, and one draw from 11 matches.
During his tenure at the Wish Communications Stadium, which was overshadowed by the sudden and tragic death of his teenage son in February last year, Millward only managed to oversee seven Super League victories.
A club statement released by Castleford read: “Following a meeting with Ian Millward, both parties agreed that he should relinquish his position as head coach.
“After a promising start to the 2013 season, recent results have been unacceptable for all concerned, including sponsors and supporters.
“The club would like to thank Ian for his services and wish him all the best for the future.”
The temptation now for the Castelford board will be to appoint an experienced coach from Australia in a bid to improve their on-field fortunes. However, with several other Super League clubs beginning to find success with young British coaches the Castleford board have the opportunity to follow suit.
Daryl Powell has done an excellent job at Featherstone Rovers in the Championship and would certainly be a strong candidate to replace Millward.
Andy Hay, the former Castleford and Leeds Rhinos player, who is currently assistant coach to Peter Gentle at Hull FC, would be another excellent fit for the Tigers, although taking on a head coaches’ role at a struggling Castleford side may not be the right option for him at this stage of his development as a coach.
Andy is a former team mate of mine from my days at Doncaster and I have no doubt that he will make an excellent head coach – he has a wealth of playing experience, is technically very astute and has a calm and assured manner.
However, the perils of taking on the role of head coach at a struggling club early in your coaching career are perfectly illustrated by the former Halifax coach Tony Anderson.
Tony, or TA as he was known, was assistant coach to Shaun McRae at Hull FC early in my playing career and he was the best coach I ever played under.
He understood the game and its intricacies completely, he made the game easy to understand, and he had a raft of great drills and practices that made training both enjoyable and educational.
In 2002 Halifax were struggling and TA, perhaps underestimating the size of the challenge, took charge as head coach for the 2003 season.
It was to be his first and last head coach’s role.
Despite his qualities as a coach, the squad of players he inherited was poor, and with little or no resources to recruit the calibre of players required they were relegated from Super League after a dismal season and TA was sacked.
His reputation was tarnished and he was despondent at having had his beloved Halifax relegated, shortly after he drifted away from the professional game.
Another candidate for the Castleford job is current Batley coach John Kear. Although he’s no spring chicken these days he is British and has stated that as a ‘Cas’ lad the head coach’s job at Wheldon Road would be his ‘dream job’.
He has a very good track record, particularly in the Challenge Cup, and he is certainly the type of coach who would motivate and inspire the Castleford players, something which on current performances you would have to say they are totally in need of.
Finally this week a doff of the cap to Richie Mathers, the Wakefield full-back who ruptured a testicle against Wigan on Sunday… and continued playing, seemingly more concerned about his foot:
“I got a knee flush on my right testicle in the first carry of the game.” He said.
“I got a foot injury later in the game and it wasn’t until I got in the shower on Monday morning that I noticed there was a lot of swelling.”
The injury is reminiscent of Paul Wood’s injury which he sustained in the Grand Final last October.
On that occasion Wood had to have his testicle removed, Mathers was a little more fortunate and his damaged testicle was saved on this occasion:
“When I first woke up after surgery my first question was ‘have I got one or two?’ he said.
“I’ve got to have complete rest for the next two weeks. The doctor said he’d never seen such trauma in that area.”
I’ll leave you to make your own jokes about it taking balls to play rugby league.