Andrew Henderson on return to coaching, York’s recruitment and pre-season challenges

Josh McAllister
Andrew Henderson, Championship

Photo: Allan McKenzie/

Andrew Henderson returned to the coaching scene during the off-season with York and has discussed his move as head coach with the club, future recruitment plans and pre-season challenges.

Henderson, 43, was last a head coach back with London Broncos from 2015 to 2017, enjoying a successful spell which included two second-place finishes. He was rewarded with the Championship Coach of the Year in 2017, before moving on to join Warrington’s coaching team under Steve Price as assistant in 2018.

Following Daryl Powell’s arrival to the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Henderson would go on to join Keighley as head of rugby for the 2022 season. Rhys Lovegrove’s side enjoyed the perfect season that year with 20 wins from 20, earning promotion to the Championship.

12 months on, the former hooker joined York during the off-season on a massive five-year deal to lead the side under a new era following the departure of James Ford, who joined Wakefield in Super League. 

While enjoying his role as head of rugby at Keighley during 2022, Henderson admits he didn’t feel his coaching career had finished just yet, having previously been linked with numerous roles.

Andrew Henderson on York appointment

“It happened very quickly, I didn’t see it coming,” Henderson told Love Rugby League.

“It was the off-season. I got a message from the York owner asking if I was available for a chat. I’ll be honest with you, at first I thought it was a role for head of rugby after my work with Keighley.

“I asked for more details and he mentioned it was the head coaching role. It was a bit of a shock as I didn’t see James Ford leaving. But obviously he found an opportunity at Wakefield, so that opened an opportunity for me.

“It was a case of speaking to Keighley and letting them know a coaching opportunity had come up that I was interested in exploring and as much as they were disappointed to hear that, they were great about it all and gave me the blessings to go and have a chat. 

“And after speaking with Clint Goodchild about his vision, his ambitions and his aspirations. I thought this was the right time for me. It’s a great opportunity to work with a really talented playing group and a club that is on the up.

“It’s a club I think has the huge amount of potential to be a Super League club one day and hopefully I can be a part of that journey.”

“I probably didn’t feel my coaching journey was finished” – Andrew Henderson

Henderson continued: “I probably didn’t feel my coaching journey was finished. When I finished with Warrington, I was presented with some coaching opportunities at the end of 2021 but I just didn’t feel they were the right feel for me.

“I’ve always said I wouldn’t take a coaching job for the sake of it. I was very mindful of knowing those jobs were available but I didn’t feel connected to that job or it wasn’t the right fit for me or for the club.

“So I was presented with the opportunity to come in with Keighley. I felt I could have a really good influence there.

“It was a fantastic role and I really enjoyed it. It was a fantastic season at Keighley last year.

“I take a lot of comfort in knowing that even though I’ve left them, I’ve left them in a better place with a competitive squad who I believe should be good enough to stay in the Championship.”

Henderson was appointed York’s new head coach in October, admitting most of the club’s recruitment business had already been completed upon his arrival.

Furthermore, the 23-time Scotland international confessed to a challenging first pre-season with the club due to several factors; including a handful of players featuring at the delayed 2021 World Cup.

A “challenging” pre-season

“To be honest with you, it’s been a little bit of a disruptive pre-season this year. We haven’t had a large amount of numbers on the ground from the start,” Henderson explained.

“There’s a lot of things that have happened very, very quickly. The transition of the coaching team and obviously a number of our players were in the World Cup so they’ve had some time off after that.

“And some other players where it was already agreed they could go back to Australia for a break; and then take into account the injuries that were already here.

“So it has made pre-season a little more challenging than I’d have liked it to have been. But we’ve still managed to get the group to embrace a new training programme. After the friendly game that we’ve played, it’s given me the confidence as a coach.

“I don’t think we’re in a bad place overall after a little bit of disruption. I feel like we’re in as good a position we could be in at this stage.”

Andrew Henderson on recruitment

Henderson admits he will hold talks with club chairman Clint Goodchild about the possibility of further recruitment.

The only players Henderson has been able to bring in are Jon Luke Kirby, Harry Price and James Cunningham.

He said: “The playing group had already been signed before I got here.

“I’ve got a couple of guys on trial as well who are also there to help with the training numbers with the view of potentially being a part the squad in years to come.

“The squad had already been done. I’ve not had the luxury of a budget to play with to bring in.

“I do like the balance of our squad in terms of the age range. There’s some really good, young talented players with some established players.

“So I think the balance of that is good. But I do think there’s some areas we do need to strengthen. For me, it’s primarily at centre.”

York host Widnes this Sunday in the opening round of the 2023 Championship season on Sunday.

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