Woolf chosen to replace Holbrook at St Helens
St Helens have confirmed the appointment of Newcastle Knights assistant Kristian Woolf as their new head coach after he fought off competition from NRL rivals and Salford’s Ian Watson.
Saints, who lead the Super League by a record 16 points, will lose Justin Holbrook when he heads home to Australia to take charge of Gold Coast Titans at the end of this season.
St Helens chief executive Mike Rush met numerous potential successors during a recent trip to Australia and a four-man shortlist was drawn up which consisted of Nrl-based coaches Woolf, Adam O’brien, Jason Ryles and also Watson.
Woolf, credited with improving Newcastle’s defence this season, has signed a two-year deal with Saints, having an option to extend his contract by a further year.
The 44-year-old, who combines his current job at Newcastle with the role of head coach of the Tonga national team, joined the Knights last year from the Townsville Blackhawks.
Woolf, who starts work on Nov 1 and will not make any major additions to his squad ahead of next season, said: “I’m excited and privileged to be joining St Helens as head coach.
“It’s something I have always wanted to do and it’s a great opportunity for me.
“St Helens is a club with an amazing history and I’m confident we can achieve great things together.”
Woolf previously worked as an assistant coach at Brisbane Broncos and his appointment continues St Helens’ trend of appointing overseas coaches, following in the footsteps of Ian Millward, Daniel Anderson, Mick Potter, Royce Simmons and Nathan Brown.
Each member of that group guided Saints to a Grand Final, with Anderson winning a memorable treble in 2006.
Saints chairman Eamonn Mcmanus said: “We consider that Kristian is ideally qualified and placed to build upon the current success of the team and the club.
“He has the experience and expertise to bring the best out of our squad and to improve it further. We are very confident the Saints will compete for honours under his tenure and we will continue to play attractive and exciting rugby league.”