Millward fall-out hits Betts

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The Independent Online

St Helens supporters who made the trip to Hull on Friday night must have looked at their team's performance and asked themselves: "What have we done?"

St Helens supporters who made the trip to Hull on Friday night must have looked at their team's performance and asked themselves: "What have we done?"

It's more a case of what their administrators have done, of course; they were the ones who took the decision to go through with the sacking of their coach, Ian Millward. A 44-6 defeat, during which some of the best players in the game found it easier to pass to the crowd than to a team-mate, was not a great advertisement for it.

There is nothing particularly unusual about Saints losing at the KC Stadium, but the manner of the defeat will have set off any alarm bells that were not ringing already. The term "rudderless" implies a little too much direction.

Whether the sight of Millward on the sidelines, or the sound of him at half-time, would have made any difference is a moot point. If it had not been for the events of the last week, however, Saints would not have gone into the match with such a distracted air. They looked like a team with other things on their minds - and no wonder.

No doubt Dave Rotheram and the rest of the staff did their best to cut out external influences. They were not able to do so, and that shows how urgent it is that Saints should get a new head coach in place.

New Zealand have come close to admitting that they expect their Test coach, Daniel Anderson, to take the job, and say that there will be no hard feelings if he does. "He's done a fantastic job,"the New Zealand Rugby League's chairman, Selwyn Pearson, said. Apart from his role with the Kiwis, Anderson has experience at club level with the New Zealand Warriors, where his record was mixed.

He would start at Knowsley Road with one major disadvantage. The fans do not want him; almost to a man, they want Millward back. They are not going to get him, because the only thing that any court will now decide is how much compensation he is entitled to.

Part of Saints' calculation might be that, if he takes a new job quickly, that compensation will not amount to very much. Millward says he is eager to get back to work, and he is unlikely to have to wait long.

Consider this scenario. A club who are doing reasonably well, but not quite meeting their aspirations, find that arguably the best coach in Super League is suddenly available. They have a faithful retainer in position, doing a decent job, but they shunt him discreetly into the sidings to bring in the new man. The following season, they win Super League.

That happened, of course, at Leeds, and the coach was Tony Smith. The logic now leads inexorably to Wigan's match at Warrington today. Denis Betts is generally recognised as doing a good job with what he has available, but will that be enough to deter Wigan from the grand gesture? Not if they look at the Leeds precedent, it won't.

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