Inside the whirlwind 48 hours of Hull FC’s pursuit of Salford Red Devils coach Paul Rowley

Aaron Bower
Paul Rowley Salford Devils Alamy

Salford head coach Paul Rowley

It all started – officially at least – late on Sunday afternoon.

After returning home from London with two competition points, Salford’s hierarchy were able to have a rare Sunday without thinking about rugby league: or so they thought. In the days prior, Hull FC – and specifically Richie Myler – had decided: Paul Rowley was to be their number one target for the job at the MKM Stadium.

The call didn’t come in to Salford until Sunday afternoon – but at no stage were the Red Devils ever sent into a state of real panic about the prospect of losing their head coach.

Not that they were certain the events that followed would automatically happen and Rowley would choose to commit to Salford. But they were steadfast in that their strong relationship with Rowley would count for a lot: as would their insistence to their coach that they have a long-term plan to grow and build the club together.

They have also been in this situation many times before, losing key assets. And given how a deal always had the hint of a possibility of being for the start of next season, it meant the club had time to get the identity of Rowley’s successor right.

Salford knew their asking price for Rowley – £150,000 – and Hull were prepared to pay it. At no stage was there a sticking point over the transfer fee. Nor were Salford ever willing to stand in Rowley’s way if he wanted to leave.

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But at no stage did Rowley ever indicate his preference was to leave Salford in favour of starting the rebuild at Hull FC. That left Red Devils officials quietly optimistic on Monday that they may just be able to hold onto him.

Rowley had held tentative discussions with Hull’s hierarchy – Myler among them – but nothing was ever finalised or close to being agreed. That meant when Salford met their head coach on Tuesday, they felt in a favourable position.

Rowley once again never expressed a desire to leave. Nor did he have any objections to the size of the fee Salford were asking for. But the Red Devils knew they had to avoid a protracted, drawn-out saga and were keen to resolve matters one way or the other fairly quickly.

So on Tuesday lunchtime, Rowley informed the club that he would be rejecting Hull’s move for him in favour of the last 18 months of his deal at Salford. It is a deal the club would be actively keen to extend: not least to protect one of their major assets should another big club come calling.

The expectation internally at Salford has always been that will be the case. Bigger clubs – with all due respect to the Red Devils – are admirers of Rowley and if their head coaching position becomes vacant, he will instantly be at the top of several lists across Super League.

But for now, the man who has played such a pivotal role in delivering success to Salford is staying put. You can be sure of a raucous welcome this weekend for Rowley.

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