A humble Justin Holbrook has deflected praise onto his players, St Helens coaching staff and his coaching rivals after being crowned as the English Super League’s Coach of the Year.
The Titans 2020 coach will be looking to sign off on his English stint in the best way possible this weekend in the Super League grand final, with St Helens almost unbackable favourites against the underdog Salford Red Devils at Old Trafford.
Win or lose in the grand final, it has been a remarkable coaching performance from Holbrook in 2019, with St Helens finishing the regular season on 50 competition eight wins clear of second-placed Wigan.
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Before receiving his Coach of the Year award at Super League’s Man of Steel presentation night, a stirring video was presented to the audience with tributes to Holbrook from St Helens players and staff talking about the impact he had had on the club since taking over in 2018.
English Test prop Alex Walmsley said Holbrook had reunited a St Helens club that had become “a toxic environment”.
“There was such a separation between the fans and the club,” Walmsley said of the period before Holbrook’s arrival. “It was quite a toxic environment to be fair.
“Justin came in there, and he what he did it reunited us all – the whole community. He made it a place where everyone wanted to come again, and be a part of.
“He has improved us all as players, but I would like to think he has made us better people as well.”
In a preview of what Titans fans can expect from their new coach next season, Holbrook said accountability and respect were the foundations of his coaching success.
“The standards that we set – as staff, for myself, to the playing group as well – we are all in this together,” Holbrook said. “I make that clear. And no one is above anyone else. I will have as much respect for the kit man or whoever because we are all important pieces in this puzzle.
“I just think I want to be remembered as someone who has come in and tried his absolute best. I am proud of that and I am happy with it. If we are god enough to win, great. If we’re not, I’m still the same person who has tried his best.”
After accepting his award, Holbrook said he would leave Super League for the Titans and the NRL content with what he had achieved while at the helm of St Helens.
“I have said this a number of times, but the minute I got here I’ve loved it,” he said.
“The first game for myself was Magic Weekend, so I got lucky straight away. It was a fantastic event.
“My first home game was Wigan – against our biggest rivals. Fast forward, and my last home game was against Wigan too.
“I have loved the competition, everyone involved with it, and obviously all the other great coaches.
“For myself to edge out all those coaches (as Coach of the Year), it is an honour, but one that I have to thank the rest of my staff, and in particular the players.
“For us to finish 16 points clear of second spot, that is something that as a group we should be really proud of. It is not easy to do.
“To play well every single week is a credit to them, and this award will be shared with the players.”
Holbrook will arrive on the Gold Coast at the end of October in preparation for the start of pre-season training with the Titans, which begins on November 4.