This week the Super League Grand Finalists were decided and Huddersfield appointed a new coach. Here’s the Week in Review.
Huddersfield confirm Ian Watson capture
As widely reported last week, Huddersfield Giants have now officially announced Ian Watson as their new coach on a three-year deal from 2021.
Watson said: “I was attracted to the potential of the club.”
“Everything about it screams top four – the Stadium, the Youth Academy and the owner who has proven over time that he wants to win and has backed the club in his pursuit of success.”
“My short-term aims are to ensure the club moves to the right side of the table and the longer-term aims for the club have to be challenging the top teams in Super League.”
He also confirmed that Luke Robinson, who performed admirably as caretaker coach at the end of the 2020 season, would be staying on as assistant coach.
It’s expected he will have full use of the salary cap at the John Smith’s Stadium, something he was not afforded at Salford, as he looks to propel the Giants to their first playoff berth since 2015.
Wigan and St Helens to contest the Super League Grand Final
In a fitting end to Sean O’Loughlin’s career, the Wigan captain’s final match will be in a Grand Final after a comprehensive win over Hull FC.
The Cherry and Whites triumphed 29-2 with tries from Joe Burgess, Harry Smith, Zak Hardaker, Jake Bibby and Bevan French.
It was a chastening evening though for Andy Last’s men as they couldn’t break down a strong Wigan defence, falling to their third semi-final defeat in five years.
For the fourth time rivals St Helens will be their opponents after they thrashed Catalans Dragons 48-2. Kevin Naiqama scored a hat-trick and Lachlan Coote crossed twice with Jonny Lomax, James Bentley and Regan Grace also posting tries.
However, for their record 12th Grand Final appearance they may be without star forward Alex Walmsley, who limped off with a knee injury. James Graham will be hoping his last career game can be a Grand Final, but he will be assessed after failing a head injury assessment.
Man of Steel Nominees announced
The contenders for this year’s Steve Prescott Man of Steel were announced with Wigan’s Bevan French and Liam Farrell, St Helens’ Lachlan Coote, Huddersfield’s Aidan Sezer and Castleford’s Paul McShane selected.
Wigan pair Farrell and French are both vying to become the first Cherry and Whites player since Sam Tomkins in 2012 to win the award.
In his first full season, French, who was named the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters’ Association Player of the Year, has added another dimension to Wigan’s attack, leading the league in tackle busts and clean breaks.
His teammate Farrell has been as consistent as always in his testimonial year, scoring his 100th Wigan try against Leeds in August.
St Helens’ fullback Lachlan Coote has had another impressive campaign claiming 14 assists – the most for a fullback – and 10 tries as well as 68 goals, the highest in Super League.
The mercurial halfback Huddersfield have been missing since the departure of Danny Brough, Aidan Sezer has lit up the competition with his impressive kicking game and game-management which gave him 18 try assists for the season, a League-high.
Paul McShane led the Man of Steel standings for the majority of the campaign before being pipped by Sezer, but the influential Castleford hooker has again stood out with his typically all-energy displays, featuring in every Tigers match this season.
Championship and League One sides confirm application decisions
Widnes Vikings confirmed on Thursday that they wouldn’t be applying to replace Toronto in the Super League for 2021 despite being eligible.
The Championship side’s CEO Phil Finney revealed on BBC Radio Merseyside his intentions: “We want to do it the right way, be sustainable. Of course we want to be in Super League but we can’t jeopardise the club by going up when we aren’t ready.”
He cited the impact of having to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and having gone into administration last year as factors.
In League One Rochdale and Barrow both confirmed their plans to take up the remaining spot in the Championship.
Due to this, the Championship will be left with 13 teams so one team from League 1 has the chance to move into the second tier.
League 1 hopefuls have until December 2 to submit their application to be considered for the Championship’s 14th spot for 2021.
Johnny Whiteley’s 90th birthday
Friday saw the milestone birthday of rugby league legend Johnny Whiteley.
A one-club man, he made more than 400 appearances for Hull FC where he won the League Championship in 1956, the same year he became captain.
Known as a tough and well-respected forward, Whiteley won the title again in 1958 but missed out on lifting the Challenge Cup as the Airlie Birds lost consecutive deciders from 1959.
Three years later he was part of the last Great Britain team to beat Australia on home soil in the 1959 test series, scoring the try that beat the Aussies that year.
He also claimed victory over the Australians as a coach in 1970 when Great Britain won the Ashes, a feat that has not been repeated since.
Further coaching assignments took him across to rivals Hull KR for two years before coaching the Yorkshire Origin side for 12 years.