Who could be the first coaching casualty of 2020?
Simon Woolford (Hudderfield Giants)
Woolford admitted last September that he would return home to Australia if the Giants suffered relegation to the Betfred Championship. His side survived by the skin of the teeth last time around, but there will need to be vast improvements across the park if they are to avoid being embroiled in a relegation fight. They have been bolstered by the arrival of marquee man Aidan Sezer, the man who Woolford has been eyeing as his number one target for a long time. If Sezer does not deliver the goods and help fire Huddersfield further up the league table, questions might be asked of their Australian coach.
Steve Price (Warrington Wolves)
Price has reached three out of four possible finals since taking over as Warrington Head Coach, but the arrival of second marquee man Gareth Widdop brings with it an increased pressure and expectation, most notably from the stands. Having started so well, the club’s season ended on a rather sombre note – Challenge Cup final aside – as they lost seven of their last eight in the league before being eliminated in the first week of the play-offs. A quick start to 2020 would go a long way towards reaffirming that Price is the right man for the job, but defeats in the early rounds could cause the fans’ frustration to grow ever so slightly louder.
Tony Smith (Hull KR)
Hull KR are favourites to go down, according to the latest odds released by Betfred, and should KR endure a difficult start to the season it will be interesting to see how their board act. Tony Smith has overseen a major overhaul of the Robins squad, with 20 new faces coming through the door. It will inevitably take time for their players to gel, but with the fight to survive expected to be hotter than ever, KR cannot afford a sluggish opening to the campaign. Smith has steadied the ship since arriving and now has the squad depth he was craving following his appointment back in June. Now it is time to see whether his new-look team can deliver the goods.
Kristian Woolf (St Helens)
It seems strange to include Woolf in this list, considering he has yet to take charge of St Helens in a competitive game yet. However, he knows he will have big shoes to fill following the departure of Justin Holbrook, who won two trophies in his final season at the club. Holbrook had the reigning champions oozing quality and playing with real style throughout the last campaign. Saints’ fans will expect Woolf to bring more of the same, but should the standard of rugby not meet expectations, there may be some murmurs of discontent around the Totally Wicked Stadium. Woolf has put faith in last year’s title-winning squad, so only time will tell if he can provide trophies in his first season at the helm.
Lee Radford (Hull FC)
It seems like he has been a man fighting for his job for two or three seasons now, but given the amount of NRL stars Radford has been allowed to bring to Humberside, the pressure may be higher than ever to deliver the goods. Hull FC have brought in the likes of Manu Ma’u, Ligi Sao and Tevita Satae, and with such strength-in-depth evident across the park, it would be safe to assume that the Airlie Birds are serious contenders for silverware. The 40-year-old has won exactly half of his 190 games since taking over the reigns in 2014, and should he struggle to show that Hull FC are serious about mounting a challenge in the early weeks of the season, questions may be asked.
Brian McDermott (Toronto Wolfpack)
For a club so used to winning regularly during their three seasons in the British game, it will be interesting to see how the Wolfpack hierarchy react if results go against them in the early weeks of the campaign. The Canadian side will expect to hit the ground running, but wins may not be as easy to come by as the quality of opposition increases. McDermott – the most successful coach in Super League history – was only handed a new year five-year deal last year, and it would likely take a drastic turn in results and performance for the club to look to change in their debut year in the top flight. However, as they bid to grow the sport in Canada, the prospect of relegation at the first attempt may encourage them to force their hand if the losses mount up.