Gary Schofield, whilst acknowledging that all three are good coaches, believes that it is time to call last orders on Paul Anderson (Huddersfield Giants), Kieran Cunningham (St. Helens), and Brian McDermott (Leeds Rhinos).
Almost from the first round the Giants and Rhinos have struggled and both are facing the Middle-Eight play-offs. Saints are better positioned but certainly not firing on all cylinders.
So should all three coaches get the ‘chop’ as Schofield states?
Kieran Cunningham is the newest of the three head coaches, being in place since October 2014. Saints only piece of silverware since then is the League Leader’s Shield, won just before his full-time appointment. Currently sitting in 5th place in the table and 6 points off 4th place rivals Wigan.
Paul Anderson has been the Giants head coach since 2013, in which they won the League Leader’s Shield. They are currently in 11th place and 6 points off 8th place, which is not impossible but very dependent on other teams losing and them winning every remaining match before the split.
Brian McDermott has been head coach of the Rhinos since 2011, in which the club has won 3 Super League titles, 2 Challenge Cups, 1 World Club Challenge title, and 1 League Leader’s Shield which constituted part of the famous ‘triple’ last season. They are currently bottom of the league and will definitely be in the play-offs.
Kieran Cunningham seems to be the coach being the most publicly criticised, mostly by the Saints fans. Essentially one and a half seasons at the helm and currently 5th placed in the table. Not a dominant performance even in the wins and not always losing by much, but hardly a cause to push the panic button. The players seem to switch off on the pitch at times – the match against Warrington was a clear case in point, when a Wolves kick was fielded and Saints players were still getting back onside as the 2nd tackle was being completed – and this is a worry, but they still have the personnel to turn key games on their head. I would let him get through this season and think about getting a better assistant coach – one who has a stronger coaching background to supplement Cunningham’s strong playing experience.
Paul Anderson has enjoyed a relatively stable squad, which looks very good on paper. They have turned up some good results over the last couple of years, including wins over all the top clubs, but they seem to struggle at the business end of the season. The loss of Luke Robinson and matches missed by Danny Brough clearly have had an impact on their season. Again, I don’t think there are any panic buttons to be pushed, and the Giants should come through the play-offs. A strong post-season review needs to be had and options looked at for correcting the problems of this year, but I don’t think this needs Anderson’s job.
Brian McDermott is undoubtedly the most decorated of the current crop of Super League coaches in the last five years. This makes Leeds’ current predicament all the more fascinating. It is like car-crash tv – it is almost too painful to watch but you can’t turn away. However, one season the domestic triple and the next season the sack – come on Mr. Schofield, this isn’t soccer! There are probably a dozen distinct reasons for the Rhinos’ position at the foot of the table but who would you want to get you out of that hole? Would you seriously get rid of a coach who has brought 3 League titles, 2 Challenge Cups, and a World Club Challenge for . . . ?
What are the alternatives? I’m not suggesting there aren’t good assistant coaches waiting out there in the wings but you have got to create some trust and stability in your coaching set up.
Is Paul Anderson’s recruiting and coaching the reason for the Giants current poor performance? Replacing him now helps the situation how? On my list he would have the most question marks against him for the future given the lack of finals and silverware in his tenure.
Kieran Cunningham’s Saints are 5th in the table. McDermott’s Rhino’s have won the Super League from that position and Wigan also did it from 5th or 4th place. The inconsistent form of the team needs attention but their ability to win the big matches is still there. Cunningham is a season and a half into his position and everything is still up for grabs in the second half of this season.
Brian McDermott’s position is the most dire but should be the most secure. If you could pick any coach in Super League to dig you out of a bottom place position, he would have to be in your top two. A coach who creates an environment to win all the silverware he has doesn’t just implode overnight. There are difficulties with injuries and potentially McDermott should have hunted for a play-maker to replace Sinfield (the signs were there last season when Sinfield started from the bench for a number of matches) for this season, but I would let him finish what he started.