Andy Last gets audition for Castleford job as new favourite emerges
The bookmakers’ early favourite to succeed Lee Radford as Castleford head coach, Andy Last, will get a chance to show what he can do this weekend.
Last, 41, took the reins at Hull back in 2020 upon Radford’s departure from there, and is again tasked with the same this time at The Jungle.
He won 8 out of 14 games in charge of the Black and Whites, including a play-off victory over Warrington at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Hull opted to bring in Brett Hodgson ahead of the 2021 season, and Last departed after 23 years at his hometown club to join Wakefield as assistant coach.
Andy Last was re-united with Radford in 2022 as assistant.
His first game in interim charge at Castleford will be the trip to Huddersfield, before the Tigers have two tough home games against Leeds and Warrington.
On announcing Radford’s departure, Castleford confirmed: “Assistant Coach Andy Last will take charge of the First Team for the Fords’ upcoming fixture at Huddersfield Giants on Friday night.”
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Odds on new Castleford head coach
Last was immediately been installed as favourite to take the Tigers job permanently, but former Hull KR coach Justin Morgan has been backed in to 6/4 favourite with competition sponsor’s Betfred.
Former Tigers favourites Danny Ward, who hasn’t had a head coach role since departing London Broncos in 2020, and Andrew Henderson, who recently took charge at York, are also tipped to be in the running.
It would seem unlikely that Henderson would drop York barely months after signing a five-year deal, having moved from a director of rugby role at Keighley.
Other names mentioned include former Featherstone coach Ryan Carr, who earned plaudits for his season in the UK which also saw him hook up with Leeds Rhinos, and former Rhinos back-rower Matt Adamson, who has made no secret of his coaching ambitions.
Danny Orr made more than 250 appearances for Castleford during his playing career, and had a brief stint as interim head coach in 2013 following the departure of Ian Millward.
He is available having left his role as assitant coach at Salford at the end of last season.
Another former Featherstone coach, the multiple Super League winner Brian McDermott, and ex-Wakefield boss Willie Poching are also on the list.
Ryan Sheridan, the Warrington assistant coach who was part of Daryl Powell’s coaching team during his successful spell at the Tigers, is 12/1.
Current Championship coaches Simon Grix, Craig Lingard and John Kear, of Halifax, Batley and Widnes respectively are outside bets.
Coach-by-coach odds to take over
Odds supplied by Betfred
Justin Morgan 6/4
Andy Last 4/1
Danny Ward 4/1
Andrew Henderson 7/1
Ryan Carr 7/1
Danny Orr 8/1
Matt Adamson 10/1
Willie Poching 10/1
Shane Flanagan 10/1
Brian McDermott 12/1
Danny McGuire 12/1
Ryan Sheridan 12/1
Simon Grix 16/1
Craig Lingard 16/1
Michael Shenton 16/1
John Kear 20/1
James Ford 25/1
Chris Chester 25/1
Brian Noble 40/1
Fans react to Radford departure
Though generally fans have been supportive of the decision to make a change, some have questioned the timing. Castleford have started the season with three defeats to Hull, St Helens and Wigan, though they probably weren’t expected to come out on top in any of those fixtures anyway.
They kept Wigan out for 35 minutes last Friday, before capitulating to a heavy defeat in the second half. It was the reverse story against Hull, where they fell behind and then mounted a comeback late on.
Will Beedham tweeted: “Can see why they’ve done this. The rugby and the players he’s brought in have been mainly horrific choices. But why give the bloke a full pre season and 3 tough teams to play then sack him?!”
John Shannon questioned the earlyness of the departure: “Wow! So, three games is the benchmark for a coach losing their job? Must be lots of other nervous coaches near the bottom of the table.”
Nick Raleigh also questioned the timing: “3 games? You’ve backed him in the off season and got rid after 3 games.”
Matt Dunnell saw the writing on the wall: “You could tell pre season he didn’t want to be here! Right call, let’s take this next appointment seriously and plan for the future.”
Craig Murphy wants an ambitious appointment: “Put your hands in your pocket and bring in a coach who can attract stars Cas! A coach who can attract overseas guys who are actually worth a quota spot!”
Charlie Bravo agreed with the decision: “Better to do it now, for both parties. Still time to get back on track – or start to get back on it. Time for the players to show if they want to play for us.”
Nathan Barraclough makes the case for Danny Ward to get the job: “Shame it didn’t work out and I wish him all the best. I’d like to see Danny Ward given a shot. Did remarkable things with the London team he had nearly keeping them up. Showed a real togetherness won trophies at Leeds and played for us.”
Who should Castleford turn to?
Our very own graphic designer Ben Roberts, a staunch Castleford fan, has backed Michael Shenton for the role.
Given the uncertainty over the short-term future of Super League, with IMG set to announce their grading criteria this week, Castleford need a trusted hand to steady the ship.
It perhaps isn’t the time to go to Australia and get a Willie Peters, for example.
They need a coach who can work with what’s there, although the fact 14 players are out of contract can both be a help and a hindrance – it means the decks could in theory be cleared, but it also might make it difficult to get a tune out of those players in 2023, as Powell found out at Warrington last season.
It’s surprising that Danny Ward hasn’t popped up anywhere after the job he did at London Broncos, but maybe he’s been waiting for the right opportunity and perhaps this is it.
Morgan is a fascinating one. He did a terrific job at Hull KR, not only getting them in to Super League but also building them as a solid top flight club, and at one point, reaching the top four.
Orr has been waiting for his chance at a top job, though maybe it’s too big of a risk to do that at this stage.
It’s never a good time to get relegated, but going down at the end of 2023 could well be the worst time. It’s better to be in the tent spitting out, than outside the tent spitting in.