Warrington Wolves’ Grand Final hopes may have been ended by St Helens, but Stefan Ratchford believes they will reap the rewards of a coaching dream team ahead of their 2024 rebuild under ‘unbelievable’ Great Britain stars Sam Burgess and Martin Gleeson.
The Wire only just scraped into the top six, having topped the Super League table at Easter under now-departed head coach Daryl Powell.
And Ratchford believes a key factor in the side rescuing a play-off place following an alarming mid-season slump that cost Powell his job was the addition of former centre Gleeson to the coaching ranks.
The former England rugby union attack coach has been helping out at Warrington, who have made his contract permanent as first-team coach.
And Ratchford believes next year’s Gleeson-Burgess coaching team could reap huge rewards for the Wolves.
“Gleeson is brilliant. I actually played against him and you knew his qualities and how much he understood the game,” Ratchford told Love Rugby League, speaking ahead of the St Helens game.
“He studied the game and was really successful in rugby union with Wasps and England. I’ve been really surprised by how quickly he has switched back from many years in union, back to league and has picked it up again straight away.
“He has identified our areas to tweak. He has come in and asked why we are still doing this and that, stuff that was relevant five years ago but perhaps not now.
“Those little tweaks have had much bigger impact. He has been brilliant and is still relatively young, lively and bounces around the lads with a smile. A couple of the lads have said how much they wanted Gleeson back next year, as he’s been with us for six weeks and helped changed the way we play.
“We have been so much more consistent which is down to the tweaks he has made. Gaz Chambers has been outstanding in the interim role, his passion for the club shines through. You can feel it.”
Ratchford excited for Burgess arrival
Burgess, meanwhile, will take over from interim Chambers as head coach until next year, but Ratchford said he had been providing insights already going into the play-offs.
“Sam is really excited and I’ve spoken to him a few times over the last six weeks,” Ratchford said.
“He can’t wait, but it is difficult at the moment given he is on the other side of the world and not the coach yet.
“I’ve had a couple of chats with Sam, not on gameplan, more on how the lads are feeling for the play-offs and suggesting what we should focus on in certain games.
“Gaz gets phone calls at daft o’clock, but largely Sam is respectful enough to leave us to it. He just wants to get a gauge of where we are at when he takes over.
“Sam was an unbelievable player who I loved playing with, and I’m really excited to have him as coach. It will be the first time in my career that I am older than a coach.
“Next year is next year and our job is this year, and we have a job to do towards achieving our goals.”