Saints sack Simmons after winless streak


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Royce Simmons has always been ready with a droll one-liner and his parting shot, after St Helens' defeat at Bradford on Saturday, was one of his best.

"If I had a neck," said the former Kangaroo hooker, "I'd hang myself."

He might have had an inkling that his players' display had given Saints the rope to do the job for him. At first glance, the club's decision to sack him, along with his assistant, Kieron Purtill, just seven matches into his second season looks premature. He was recognised as having done an outstanding job last year, when he took Saints to the Grand Final despite a chronic injury list that forced him to blood a new generation of players. Those players were expected to continue their progress this season but Saturday's match was their fifth without a win – the club's worst run in the Super League era.

There are mitigating factors. Several of those defeats have been in close contests. James Graham has been badly missed since his departure for Australia and so, since injury confined him to the sidelines, has James Roby. But the fact remains that Saints, Grand Finalists for the last five years, are unused to being in the bottom half of the table, especially with eminently loseable fixtures against Leeds, Warrington and Wigan coming up.

"Our season has got off to a difficult start and it is better to make the change sooner rather than later,"said the club's chairman, Eamonn McManus, who paid tribute to Simmons' "character and integrity". McManus has appointed the general manager, Mike Rush, and the former Test hooker Keiron Cunningham as caretakers, starting with this Sunday's game against Leeds.

Rush is one of the most highly-regarded back-room men in the game while Cunningham's standing is summed up by it being his statue that stands outside of their new stadium, Langtree Park. Since retiring, at the end of the 2010 season, he has been a weights conditioner.

"We have every faith in Mike and Keiron," said McManus. "They know the club inside out and have all the experience together to lead us forward."

Saints could have a long list of candidates for one of the plum jobs in rugby league – although not the most secure. The temporary return to this country of Daniel Anderson to coach the Exiles this summer had already cranked up the rumour mill. The former New Zealand Warriors, Parramatta and Kiwis coach had a successful spell in charge at Saints between 2005 and 2008. He has said, however, that he has no desire to return to club coaching.

Paul Sculthorpe's name is being bandied around. The former forward's name is a magical one in St Helens, but his coaching credentials are thin. Nathan Brown has those credentials, but he is under contract at Huddersfield. He has confirmed that he is leaving the Giants at the end of the year, which was widely assumed to mean that he was going back to Australia.

Rumours were linking him with Saints for 2013, however, two weeks before the announcement of Simmons' departure.

With the Giants top of Super League, Brown has the form on the board. With three-quarters of the present season to run, though, the timing is awkward to say the least.He was installed as 6-4 favourite by William Hill, but then issued a statement insisting that he was "going nowhere".

Coach contenders

Nathan Brown: A glowing reputation for his work at Huddersfield but not available yet.

Daniel Anderson: Associated with success at Saints, but disillusioned with club coaching.

Keiron Cunningham & Mike Rush: Caretakers understand the club, but have no senior experience.

Paul Sculthorpe: Iconic figure but not one who has shown much interest in full-time coaching.