Who do you rate as Saints' best coach in the Super League era?

Since the switch to summer rugby, Saints have had a dozen coaches at the helm - two on an interim basis - and earning themselves the tag of the most accomplished team in the Super League era.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 10:32 am
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 10:46 am
St Helens Coach Daniel Anderson poses with the trophy following his team's victory over Brisbane Broncos in the Carnegie World Club Challenge in 2007

Seven league titles, the same number of Challenge Cup victories, two World Club Challenge triumphs and the BBC Sports Personality team of the year award, as well as a plethora of individual awards, speaks volumes for their frightening consistency and there may be more honours just around the corner.

But how do I rate each coach in terms of their success from Shaun McRae to present incumbent Kristian Woolf.

Shaun McRae (January 1996-October 1998)

St Helens coach Ian Millward with captain Chris Joynt lift the Super League Grand Final trophy defeating Bradford Bulls at Old Trafford in 2002

NO one will ever be able to create the kind of history the affable Aussie achieved - the first person to lift the Super League title in 1996.

McRae also helped Saints to win the Challenge Cup that year and 12 months later returned to Wembley where his players retained the iconic trophy.

It was a dream start for the man from Down Under who brought revolutionary training methods to the Knowsley Road club but it was a shock to his system when he was shown the door.

He didn't deserve that fate - even though some supporters still claim today that he inherited most of his players from predecessor Eric Hughes.

St Helens coach Nathan Brown and Paul Wellens lift the trophy after winning the Super League Grand Final against Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford in 2014

There may be a modicum of truth in that but in his time at the helm McRae took Saints to a new level and they've rarely taken a backward step since.


Ellery Hanley (December 1998-March 2000)

THE board of directors thought they had pulled off a coup when arguably the greatest British RL player of all time took over the coaching reins from McRae

Suave, sophisticated and his own man, Hanley was a difficult person to handle, especially by the media, but showed in his short tenure his ability to motivate players - Saints winning the 1999 Grand Final against one of his old club, Bradford Bulls.

But despite his success on the field, trouble was brewing behind the scenes and he parted company with the club in rather acrimonious circumstances.

Rating: 7.5/10

Ian Millward (March 2000-May 2005)

AFTER making an impact as coach of neighbours Leigh, Millward was rewarded by being appointed coach at Knowsley Road and picked up a string of trophies, including the Super League title, the Challenge Cup and the World Club Challenge accolade.

But, like Hanley, his St Helens career was also ended in controversial circumstances after being suspended pending a disciplinary hearing in May 2005 and sacked a week later.

Rating: 8/10

Daniel Anderson (May 2005-October 2008).

ANDERSON wasn't exactly a household name when he arrived on our shores but changed that pretty quickly, which included a hat-trick of Challenge Cup Final triumphs, and success in all other competitions the club entered.

He was a born winner and this was clearly evident in his overall record - 57 wins from 75 matches.

Rating: 9/10

Mick Potter (February 2009 to October 2010)

POTTER only lasted one season at Saints and unlike his predecessors didn't win a single piece of major silverware and left citing homesickness as one of the reasons for his departure.


Royce Simmons (February 2011-March 2012)

LIKE Potter, Simmons didn't last too long in the hot seat with his best achievement helping Saints to reach the Grand Final at Old Trafford where they were beaten by Leeds Rhinos.

Rating: 6/10

Mike Rush (interim head coach March 2012-October 2012)

SEARCHING for a new coach, Saints temporarily turned to Rush - now chief executive officer at the Totally Wicked Stadium -- to fill the gap.

It was a sensible decision at the time as the club were able to tap into his knowledge of the game, having been a previous youth development officer and helping the likes of current skipper James Roby and recently retired James Graham to reach the pinnacle of their chosen sport.

Rating: 7/10

Nathan Brown (October 2012-October 2014)

SAINTS got back to trophy-winning ways with the appointment of Nathan Brown who arrived from Super League rivals Huddersfield Giants

'Brownie' steered Saints to fifth-place in his initial season in charge and the following year helped the club to a 14-6 victory over Wigan in the Grand Final - a match marred by the early dismal of Warriors' Ben Flower for punching Lance Hohaia while he was lying on the ground.

Rating: 7.5/10

Keiron Cunningham (October 2015 - April 2017)

AFTER being a playing legend with his hometown club - and having a bronze statue built in his honour outside the Totally Wicked Stadium - KC has never scaled the same heights as a coach but at 44 is young enough to do so.

He gave the job his best shots but he was eventually shown the exit after nearly a quarter of a century at the club - both as man and boy.

Rating: 6.5/10

Jamahl Lolesi (interim head coach 2017)

DIDN'T really have time to make any impact in his short stay as the boss but learned a great deal from the staff around him when assistant coach.

Rating: 6.5/10

Justin Holbrook (May 2017-October 2019)

JUSTIN who? That was the question on the lips of fans when the Aussie took over the hot seat in mid--season but soon bedded-in and took Saints to the 2019 Challenge Cup Final, only to be defeated 18-4 by Warrington Wolves.

But they bounced back in style and went on to claim a 23-6 Grand Final victory over Salford Red Devils in the last match of the campaign.

Rating: 8/10

Kristian Woolf (November 2019-present)

COULDN'T have picked a worst time to jet half way round the world to take on a new post in a coronavirus-hit country - giving him more problems than just looking after the normal day-to-day running of a top Rugby League club.

But he seems to have taken it all in his stride and eventually delivered the goods in what can only be described as trying circumstances by bringing home the Grand Final trophy at the expense of old foes Wigan Warriors last November.

Defensive stability was one of the key reasons behind Saints' success and no one can argue against that.

The defending champions only conceded 195 points in 17 regular season fixtures - the best in the competition - and will be looking to tread the same path in 2021.

Rating: 8/10.