Written by John Davidson
Simon Woolford has left the Huddersfield Giants and the Super League club is on the hunt for a new coach.
Three of the last four head coaches at the club have been Australian, apart from Paul Anderson, in Nathan Brown, Rick Stone and Woolford. Huddersfield could again look to the NRL again with many experienced coaches available down under.
Ex-Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is currently available, as is Paul McGregor, Anthony Seibold, Neil Henry, Geoff Toovey, Dean Pay and others. There are also some assistants that could be strong candidates like Dean Young, Craig Fitzgibbon and John Cartwright.
But travel restrictions thanks to Covid-19 could be an issue and going local makes sense for the Giants. Picking a coach that knows Super League, understands English rugby league and its demands, and can build long-term and not just be in the job for a few years, is wise.
Former Hull FC coach Lee Radford may be a good choice, and surely Shaun Wane could handle both England and Huddersfield jobs at the same time. Brian McDermott might be looking for a new job in a few weeks, if Toronto Wolfpack aren’t saved, and there are others like Danny Ward and Paul Rowley that could handle the position.
But York City Knights boss James Ford might just be the perfect fit.
Ford is young – 37 – but with five years of head coaching experience in the UK. He is a student of the game and someone who has and can build a successful club culture, which is something the Giants are in desperate need of.
Club Statement 👇https://t.co/IBmMp2wCrf
— Huddersfield Giants (@Giantsrl) September 16, 2020
Ford has done wonders with York, guiding them with a 70% win percentage and out of League 1 and into the Championship. Last year he took the Knights to a third-place finish, an amazing result considering the club had one of the lowest budgets in the division.
Ford is also experienced at working with young players and developing talent. He has done that expertly at York and with England Academy, helping the team to a 2-0 series win over the Australian Schoolboys in 2018 as an assistant to Dave Elliot.
Ford was named Championship coach of the year in 2019 and is regarded as one of the brightest coaching prospects in the Old Dart. A teacher by trade, the Yorkshireman possesses an analytical mind and a deep understanding of the sport.
He played it at a high level as well, featuring as an outside back for the likes of Castleford, Widnes, Sheffield and Featherstone.
Ford has been in demand before, and was strongly linked to joining Hull KR last year when Tim Sheens departed. But under contract at York, the 37-year-old stayed put.
Ford remains under contract with the Knights, but a fee from Huddersfield could prise him loose.
In 2014 former Knights chairman John Guildford commented: “James will be a Super League coach at some stage – let’s hope it’s with the Knights.
“His record in developing players is excellent and, as a club, that is something we’re buying into. The game is also moving on and he is au fait with new technology and techniques.”
One coach told Everything Rugby League recently that Ford “loves spreadsheets” and would thrive in the top flight.
It seems only a matter of time that Ford is coaching in Super League. The Giants should take note.
They need a coach that can rebuild from the ground up, clear out the dead wood at the John Smith’s Stadium and make players and staff accountable. They need someone who can recruit deftly and enforce standards on and off the field.
For far too long the west Yorkshire outfit has underachieved and flattered to deceive. For far too long it has accepted mediocrity. Huddersfield have been around as a club for 156 years, it represents the birthplace of rugby league but they have not won a major trophy for 58 years.
Fresh blood is needed to clear the joint out.
They should take a punt on James Ford.