For Daniel Anderson, the main thing that distinguishes the Challenge Cup final from any other game is that his four kids – ages 11, nine, five and three – get an exciting coach ride to London. They are also the main reason why Anderson will not be making that journey again himself in the foreseeable future.
They don't do Job Centres in Australia but if they did, the St Helens coach would be going straight from the line-up at Wembley to the lines of those looking for work. The most successful coach in Britain for the last three years is going home to unemployment. "It's not something that I fear," he says. "I was never a professional rugby league player. I was an ordinary Joe amateur and, before I coached, I was in the workforce."
The former maths teacher has done his sums. "Counting our time in New Zealand, we've been away eight years. The kids have cousins they've never seen."
It is surprising how little his British achievements seem to count for in Australia, where less obviously qualified candidates have coaching jobs ahead of him. Ahead of Saturday's final against Hull he has one Super League title, two Cups, three League Leaders' Trophies and a World Club Challenge. "I can't do any more than I've done," he says.
They might not be impressed in Australia but, after an unpromising start, the former New Zealand Warriors coach has won over the people of St Helens. It's easy to forget that when he first arrived in 2005, fans were demonstrating for the reinstatement of the sacked Ian Millward.
"That didn't faze me," he says. "I wasn't here to be the fans' friend. I had to earn some respect from them." That respect grew into a real rapport, with Anderson feeling comfortable in his second home. "It's not the most affluent area but nor is western Sydney, where I come from. The people are very similar – very honest, hard-working and genuine. I've really enjoyed Knowsley Road. I live nearby, walk to every match and we've turned it into a bit of a fortress."
Setbacks have been rare but Anderson remembers the Challenge Cup semi-final defeat by Hull at Huddersfield, shortly after he arrived three years ago. "You remember the bitter pills as well as the highlights. That was just a case of being beaten by a better side on the day."
That memory will, he believes, ensure that his senior players do not take Hull lightly, despite their deplorable form this season. "We've too much experience to fall into that trap," he says. A big slice of that experience comes from the club captain Paul Sculthorpe, who also leaves at the end of this season after two years largely ruined by injury.
Sculthorpe will test his latest injury – a hamstring – against Huddersfield today. If he comes through safely, he will leave his coach with a selection headache.
Anderson knows how important it is to leave a club in the right way. "I want Paul to finish his time at St Helens in a successful manner, I really do," he says. "But our season doesn't finish on Saturday and sentiment can only go so far." That typical dose of realism could serve as the epitaph for the Anderson era.Reuse content