Chris Chester casts Wakefield future into doubt after personal attacks
Wakefield coach Chris Chester has dropped a big hint that his five-year tenure at Belle Vue could be coming to an end.
The 42-year-old former Wigan Hull and Halifax forward says personal attacks on social media have forced him to consider his future and revealed he is out of contract, along with 13 of his players, at the end of the season.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to rebuild the club, whether that involves me in it, I’m not too sure,” Chester said at a press conference ahead of Friday’s Super League game against Leeds.
“I’m out of contract but I’m comfortable with that to be honest. I’ve had five really good years here at the club and I’ll continue to enjoy my time here.
“I’d love to stay here, I’m Wakefield born and bread.
“What I will say is that the challenges I’ve faced over the last couple of years have made made me think long and hard. Obviously the personal attacks just make you think whether being a head coach is actually worth it.
“But I can’t speak highly enough of the people working here and the support I’ve had from everybody at board level and the staff. There’s a real good group of people here that want the best for Wakefield Trinity.
“If that involves me moving forward, then happy days. Let’s just see what the next couple of months bring.
“They probably need to make some decisions sooner rather than later because we don’t want to be missing out on targets.”
Those targets do not now include Australia prop Andrew Fifita, who was tentatively lined up for reunion with brother David at Belle Vue.
“It’s dead in the water,” he said. “We’re looking elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, Wakefield are sending winger Tom Johnstone to a neurosurgeon after he suffered a setback in his recovery from concussion.
Johnstone, who has been earmarked for a place in England’s World Cup team, has not played since picking up a head knock in Trinity’s Challenge Cup defeat by Catalans Dragons in early April.
He had targeted Friday’s match at Headingley for his comeback but is now facing another lengthy spell on the sidelines.
“Tom only got to see a specialist on Monday and it doesn’t look great to be honest,” Chester said.
“He’s going to see a neurosurgeon. He’s still getting headaches after all this time. We put him on a bike a few days ago and straight away he got some headaches.
“I think it will be a minimum of another four weeks now. There are strict guidelines and we’re led by our medical people.”
The 25-year-old spoke of his “dark times” as he overcame two major knee injuries earlier in his promising career and Chester says the player is in the hands of the club’s player welfare officer Stuart Dickens.
“We’ve just got to try and get him through this tough period he’s going through,” he said. “Obviously Stuart is working closely with him.
“It’s really tough on Tom and it’s tough on everybody at the club because we know how important a player he is to this team.
“Fingers crossed we get some good news on Monday. The kid is obviously really down and disappointed but I’m pretty sure he’ll come through the other side.”
Wakefield skipper Jacob Miller is still a week away from recovering from a knee injury, while centre Bill Tupou will miss Friday’s game with a calf injury and his likely replacement, Jack Croft, suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture while playing on loan at League 1 club Oldham.
“It’s gut-wrenching for him and just Jack’s luck,” Chester said. “With Bill Tupou being out he was going to play for us this week.
“You are probably talking nine to 10 months so it’s probably next season and it’s tough going for him but he’s got a lot of support around him.”
Chester’s more pressing concern is a bid to halt an eight-match losing run going back to October.
Leeds are on a five-match losing run themselves but they are boosted by the return of skipper Luke Gale, who has missed the last four of those defeats, and coach Richard Agar believes there is plenty of time left in the season to mount a top-six play-off challenge.
“Obviously our record isn’t a good one at this particular moment in time,” Agar said. “We’re desperate to get back on the horse.
“Apart from Hull KR, where we had a particularly flat performance, we’ve been in contests. We haven’t been good enough to get over the line but we understand there’s some reasons behind that.
“We still think there is ample time left in the season and enough ability in this side to get a good run going.”