Ranking every Hull FC coach in the Super League era

Ben Olawumi
Peter Sharp, Lee Radford, Tony Smith

Peter Sharp (left), Lee Radford (middle) & Tony Smith (right), all former Hull FC head coaches

According to their club website, Hull FC have had 11 men at the helm during their time in Super League to date, with this their 27th consecutive year in the top flight. The latest, Tony Smith, departed earlier this week.

Below, we’ve ranked all 11 of the men listed on FC’s website by win percentage, from worst to best…

Note: These win percentages take into account every competitive game the individual has taken charge of, including all cup competitions and play-off matches etc.

Key: P = Played, W = Won, D = Drew, L = Lost

11. Steve Crooks (1999-1999) – 22%

P:18, W:4, D:0, L:14

Crooks – who went under the title of ‘manager’ – only spent a few months in charge of the then-known Sharks, taking over in May 1999 following Peter Walsh’s dismissal and being handed the reins until the end of that same season.

Despite this lowly win percentage, he was in charge for one of the most important matches in the club’s history, sealing Super League survival in the last game of the season with at home against Sheffield Eagles.

10. Tony Smith (2023-2024) – 32%

P:37, W:12, D:0, L:25

Tony Smith
Tony Smith

Smith being so high up on this list shows just how bleak the last 18 months have been at the MKM Stadium. Under his tutelage, FC won just 10 of their 27 Super League games last year, finishing 10th, and this season won just one of their first seven in the league.

The veteran is one of the most experienced coaches in the game, and has enjoyed some great moments elsewhere, but there won’t be many fond memories from his time in West Hull, that’s for sure.

9. Peter Walsh (1997-1999) – 38%

P:50, W:19, D:0, L:31

Another man who went under the title of ‘manager’ was Walsh, who actually joined Hull originally as the ‘coach co-ordinator’, but eventually – having become more involved – was the reason that Phil Sigsworth rejected the offer of a new deal after winning promotion to Super League.

The ex-Illawarra Steelers boss officially took control after the ‘regular’ 1997 season had ended with the Airlie Birds vying for a double, which ultimately didn’t come, in the Divisional Premiership. Those 11 games from the back end of ’97 are included in his stats above, but during his time in charge when the club were in Super League, his win percentage was just 28%.

There was little money available, and having somehow secured survival in ’98, he departed midway through the following year after just one win in the opening 13.

8. Brett Hodgson (2021-2022) – 41%

P:53, W:22, D:1, L:30

Smith’s predecessor Hodgson enjoyed a bit more success, but not much. In both of his seasons in charge, the New South Wales native saw his side collapse in the second half of the campaign after promising starts.

After 8th and 9th-place finishes on the Super League ladder, he left the club at the end of 2022. As he’s the first man on this list to have drawn a game, we thought it right to provide some context – that came in his third league game at the helm at home against Warrington Wolves, that clash ending 14-14.

7. Richard Agar (2008-2011) – 45%

P:104, W:47, D:1, L:56

Richard Agar in 2010
Richard Agar, then Hull FC’s head coach ahead of a game in 2010

Agar actually had two ‘spells’ in charge of Hull, though the first was in 2006 following John Kear’s dismissal and lasted just four games. The win percentage – and stats – above reflect his permanent fixture in the hotseat between May 2008 and the end of the 2011 season.

During that time, Agar achieved two play-off finishes, but was ultimately shown the door by Adam Pearson at the end of that 2011 campaign with then-new owner Pearson wanting a fresh face. For what it’s worth, had we included Agar’s four-game stint in 2006 (W3, L1), his win percentage would have gone up to 46%, so he’d still have been in the same spot in this ranking.

6. Lee Radford (2014-2020) – 50%

P:202, W:101, D:3, L:98

One of Hull’s most-loved sons, former player Radford was given the head coach role following Peter Gentle’s dismissal having been Gentle’s assistant. Still the club’s longest-serving coach in the Super League era, Hull enjoyed some great times under Radford, none more so than back-to-back Challenge Cup triumphs in 2016 and 2017.

He also achieved back-to-back 3rd-place finishes in Super League in those same years, reaching the play-off semi-finals in both of those campaigns. Radford was eventually sacked, quite memorably, live on Sky Sports following a defeat to Warrington in March 2020.

5. Peter Gentle (2011-2013) – 53%

P:64, W:34, D:4, L:26

When Kear was dismissed by Pearson, the new Hull owner’s first appointment was Australian Gentle, with Hull his first-ever senior coaching gig. The veteran coach – who has since been in interim charge of NRL outfit Brisbane Broncos – achieved back-to-back 6th-place finishes.

They then led into the play-offs, and on both occasions, Hull made it over the first hurdle before being beaten at the second. In 2013, Huddersfield Giants humiliated them at that second stage, beating the Black & Whites 76-18 and that proved to be Gentle’s last game at the helm.

4. John Kear (2005-2006) – 55%

P:43, W:24, D:2, L:17

John Kear
John Kear, Hull FC’s head coach between 2008 & 2011

Taking charge of Hull ahead of the 2005 season, Kear already had plenty of coaching experience, and was the man who had shocked the rugby league world in 1998 when he headed up the Sheffield Eagles side which beat Wigan Warriors in the Challenge Cup final.

He repeated that same feat with Hull in his first year in the hotseat, winning them their first Challenge Cup for 23 years with a victory over Leeds Rhinos in the final, Danny Brough converting Paul Cooke’s try late on to seal the deal in Cardiff. Finishing 5th in Super League that year, beaten 71-0 in the play-offs by Bradford Bulls, Kear would leave the club in April ’06.

= Peter Sharp (2006-2008) – 55%

P:68, W:38, D:3, L:27

The man who led Hull as close as they’ve been – at least to date – to Super League glory. Arriving midway through the 2006 season, Sharp inherited a side who had won the last three on the spin under the interim care of Agar, and carried that run on with victories in all of the next 10. By the end of the run, FC had won 17 of 18, and finished 2nd in Super League.

Losing to St Helens in the play-offs, Hull had to win against Bradford to book their spot in a first-ever Grand Final and did so, ultimately losing out to Saints at Old Trafford. They’ve never finished 2nd in Super League again since, with Sharp orchestrating a 4th-place finish the year after before leaving midway through ’08, when assistant Agar took the reins permanently.

2. Shaun McRae (2000-2004) – 56%

P:158, W:89, D:8, L:61

Australian McRae – known as ‘Bomber’ – had coached Saints and Gateshead Thunder prior to arriving at The Boulevard, and there is no other man who has been Hull’s permanent head coach in Super League that has a better win percentage. He achieved a 3rd-place finish in 2001, with play-off finishes also coming in ’02 and ’04, with the latter the final year of his tenure.

He departed FC to return Down Under, taking up a coaching gig in the NRL with South Sydney Rabbitohs, but would eventually return to Super League as Salford’s boss a few years later. In the 2010s, he became the Airlie Birds’ Director of Rugby, with Motu Tony the man to eventually succeed him in that role.

1. Andy Last [Interim] (2020-2020) – 57%

P:14, W:8, D:0, L:6

Andy Last
Andy Last, the man placed in interim charge of Hull FC for the majority of 2020

Now, we know this is a bit of a false position given that Last only took charge on an interim basis, but Hull list him on their website so he had to be included, and as a result he tops this ranking! Having held numerous roles at the club, he took charge following Radford’s sacking in March 2020.

That was just a few days before COVID hit though, and Last – who had taken charge of just two training sessions in-person – then had to wait over 100 days for FC’s first game back. In the 14 games he was at the helm for – all behind closed doors – across league & cup, FC won eight.

Finishing 6th, they made the play-offs. The Grand Final was played at the MKM Stadium that year, and Hull would have been in it but for being beaten by Wigan at the semi-final stage! Last has since headed up Castleford Tigers, and is now the assistant to Hull native Steve McNamara at Catalans Dragons.