Tuesday morning saw Super League’s first managerial casualty as Huddersfield Giants parted company with Australian coach Rick Stone following just two wins so far this season from their seven matches.
Taking over the struggling team in July 2016, the 51 year old wasn’t able to prevent the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield winners from finishing at the bottom of the regular season table. However, despite finishing beneath both Salford and Hull KR, the former Newcastle Knights boss was able to guide the Yorkshiremen to safety after achieving five wins from seven Qualifier matches. Despite this achievement, he wasn’t able to mould his own squad for 2017 following recruitment decisions made under the previous administration; he was saddled with a squad that wasn’t his own and, barring Lee Gaskell, the recruits for the season generally failed.
Stone’s lack of manoeuvrability in the market left the Giants in a strange situation of having to allow players to leave the club as pre season began with Jamie Ellis, Craig Huby and Eorl Crabtree leaving for Hull KR, Wakefield and retirement respectively. Joe Wardle also exited to head to the NRL in a swap deal which saw full back Jake Mamo head to Huddersfield from Newcastle Knights. Mamo was, indeed, one of Stone’s priority targets and there isn’t any doubt to his ability; however, his time in Super League has thus far been blighted by injuries – something which must have left Stone ruing his misfortune.
The recruitment of Jordans Turner and Rankin in the middle of last season saw the West Yorkshiremen perform admirably to reach the Super 8s and, while things were starting to look up again, funds were again tight over the winter leaving the club rather inactive in the transfer market. Barring the contract extensions of Oliver Roberts and Danny Brough, there currently seems to be something of a good news vacuum around Huddersfield, culminating in Stone’s justified sacking; results talk and they simply haven’t been good enough.
Novice Super League head coach Chris Thorman has been placed in charge on an interim basis and has been installed as an early favourite for the role alongside the vastly experienced John Kear, currently the boss at Bradford Bulls. Thorman has an impressive playing CV having played for Hull FC and Huddersfield as well as a spell in the NRL with Parramatta in 2004. He did spend two years as player-coach at York City Knights where he earned a record total for points scored in a Challenge Cup match against Northumbria University, scoring 54 points in a 132-0 victory. He has been an assistant at Huddersfield since 2012.
Kear has only recently taken over at Bradford, joining the Odsal club following a period as director of rugby and assistant at Wakefield Trinity. He has guided the Bulls to a 100% win record so far in League 1 with three wins from three. The 63 year old has been installed as a 9/2 second favourite for the job at Huddersfield by Betfred while Thorman is the 5/4 favourite at the point of writing.