Titans Senior Assistant Coach Jim Dymock says the way Justin Holbrook was embraced by St Helens players and lauded by the club’s fans after the Super League grand final is further proof he is the right man for the Gold Coast NRL job.
Holbrook signed off on his St Helens career in the best way possible after leading Saints to a 23-6 premiership win at Old Trafford on Sunday morning (Qld time), giving the club their first title since 2014.
It was the final box to tick for Holbrook, who in two-and-a-half seasons took Saints from a struggling mid-table team to successive minor premiership trophies, runners-up in this year’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley and then the Super League crown on the weekend.
Holbrook admitted afterwards that he got emotional before the game at the prospect of coaching his last game at St Helens, but said after the match that emotion has been replaced by pride and satisfaction that his job at the Merseyside club had been done.
The players were obviously quick to share the glory of their triumph with their coach after the grand final, but it was the response of the St Helens fans in the crowd of over 62,000 that may have meant the most to Holbrook.
St Helens players have spoken openly at the “toxic culture” at the club before Holbrook’s arrival, which resulted in the local community disengaging with the team and turning their backs on the club.
Holbrook’s success, his style of football and his engaging personality not only delivered results on the field, but reconnected the team and club with their local community to leave St Helens in the strongest possible position as he departs to join the Titans later this month.
Dymock said the parallels between St Helens and the Titans were obvious, and expects the Gold Coast community to reconnect and unite behind a re-energised Titans the same way St Helens did behind their footy team.
“Justin is the right man for the Titans,” Dymock said. “He will have good people around him at the Club, which is important as well.
“But he won a competition in reserve grade at Canterbury, and he has had great success over there in England and now won a premiership with St Helens. Wherever he goes he is a winner.
“He is a knockabout bloke, he likes to have a joke and what have you. But when it is time to put your head down and work hard, then that is all that matters.
“He will let the boys enjoy their wins, and create a good bond between the players.
“The best coaches in the game are the ones that the players want to play for, and Justin is definitely one of those guys.
“They will celebrate their successes, but that is because they have absolutely earned them.”
Dymock said it was Holbrook’s man management as much as his tactical nous that would have the biggest impact on the Titans this pre-season.
“He knows his football, but he is also great at managing his players,” he said. “He manages them as players, but manages them as people too.
“When players have their football life going well, it is normally because their private lives are going well. We will get that sorted with the Titans boys.
“Whatever they need to perform at their best on the field – whether it is mind management, or something in their lives to tale their minds of football – we will make sure they get that so that when it is time to focus on football, they are ready to put their heads down and work hard.”
There is no doubt that the Titans’ new coaches know what it takes to win.
Holbrook will come to the Coast with a premiership and Super League’s Coach of the Year award in his keeping, while Dymock won a premiership and the Clive Churchill Medallist with the Bulldogs in 1995.
They will be joined by former Burleigh coach and new Titans Assistant Coach Jim Lenihan, who this season won his second Intrust Super Cup title in four years with the Bears.