Legendary rugby league commentator Mike Stephenson, recognised by most as ‘Stevo’, believes Wakefield Trinity boss Mark Applegarth is a cert for the Coach of the Year award in Super League if his side avoid the drop.
Trinity lost every one of their first 14 Super League games, as well as being dumped out of the Challenge Cup at the first hurdle by eventual winners Leigh Leopards on home soil.
Since though, Applegarth has led a charge back from the brink. Winning four games, the Belle Vue outfit are now level on points with Castleford Tigers, and the pair meet in a crunch clash live on Sky Sports this Friday.
Speaking on his shared podcast with fellow former man of the mic Eddie Hemmings, ‘Stevo’ believes the club deserves to be back in with a shout of survival for sticking with the boss through some tough times.
Stevo tips Mark Applegarth for Coach of the Year gong
While Trinity have stuck with Applegarth, relegation rivals Castleford have burned through three managers.
After Lee Radford’s departure, Andy Last first took interim charge before assuming control on a permanent basis in April. He’s already been replaced though following an unsuccessful spell at the helm, and former London Broncos chief Danny Ward was appointed last week until the end of the season.
Asked whether clubs are dismissing chiefs too soon, ex-hooker Stevo said: “Of course they are! They are too quick to it. After about five or six games of the season, I said ‘Wakefield are gone’, I’ll admit it, but I’ll tell you something now.
“If Wakefield do beat Castleford, and they do stay in Super League, I reckon the Wakefield coach should be named coach of the year, never mind how much glory or how many trophies you’ve won.
“This guy has produced something that nobody [would have believed]. I think you’ve got to be honest, even Wakefield fans would have said we’re doomed. If they survive, he should be Coach of the Year by a country mile.”
Wakefield Trinity boss could make it four in a row for English winners
Unsurprisingly, the ‘Coach of the Year’ gong is handed out at Super League’s annual awards evening. It’s been in place since 2009, and the first four winners were all Australian.
Matt Peet took the accolade last year though as the Wigan Warriors’ chief continued a more recent ‘native dominance’ in the field, becoming the eighth man in the last decade from England to scoop the honour.
In that time, the only men from further afield to win it were Australian Justin Holbrook (St Helens) in 2019, and Papua New Guinean Adrian Lam (Wigan) the following year.
Lam is now in charge down the road at Leigh, and will be in the running to pick it up a second time, with the Leopards currently 4th on the ladder, level on points with Saints in 3rd and the Warriors in 2nd.
If the Leopards’ boss can succeed, he’ll become just the second man to pick up the award twice, with Daryl Powell the only one to do it previously. Both of Powell’s came during his time at the helm of Castleford.
Previous Super League Coaches of the Year
2009 – Nathan Brown (Huddersfield Giants)
2010 – Michael Maguire (Wigan Warriors)
2011 – Trent Robinson (Catalans Dragons)
2012 – Mick Potter (Bradford Bulls)
2013 – Paul Anderson (Huddersfield Giants)
2014 – Daryl Powell (Castleford Tigers)
2015 – Brian McDermott (Leeds Rhinos)
2016 – Lee Radford (Hull FC)
2017 – Daryl Powell (Castleford Tigers)
2018 – Shaun Wane (Wigan Warriors)
2019 – Justin Holbrook (St Helens)
2020 – Adrian Lam (Wigan Warriors)
2021 – Steve McNamara (Catalans Dragons)
2022 – Matt Peet (Wigan Warriors)