Justin Holbrook: St Helens appoint Australian as head coach

Trent Robinson and Justin Holbrook
Justin Holbrook (right) was part of the Roosters coaching team that won the NRL minor premiership in 2015

St Helens have appointed Sydney Roosters assistant Justin Holbrook as their new head coach on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

Holbrook has also worked at Canterbury, St George and Parramatta and is in charge of the Australia Under-20 side.

Derek Traynor, Jamahl Lolesi and Sean Long have been in charge since club legend Keiron Cunningham left in April.

"The club has a rich and proud history and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity," Holbrook said.

"St Helens are one of the top teams in the Super League competition with a history of success. I will be working hard to continue that tradition and I cannot wait to get started," the 41-year-old added.

The club are seventh in the Super League after 12 games.

Saints chief executive Mike Rush said: "We are delighted to secure Justin. He is widely experienced and has a track record of coaching at the highest level.

"He impressed us with his knowledge of the British game and his work with younger players."

Lolesi and Long will assist Holbrook, who Saints expect to arrive in England as soon as possible, while Traynor will revert to his existing role with the academy.

Analysis

Dave Woods, BBC rugby league correspondent

The fact that Holbrook is an attacking coach is highly significant. It's a clear sign that St Helens want to restore their brand as a team that entertains. Saints fans were often critical of their team's style under previous coach Keiron Cunningham.

Holbrook also has a proven track record of working with and nurturing young players as head coach of the Junior Kangaroos, and that will also make him the perfect fit for St Helens. They have a fantastic academy that has been highly successful in recent years.

That emerging talent has been highlighted by the performances of 20-year-old winger Regan Grace since his Good Friday debut, but supporters have complained that not enough young players have been able to establish themselves in the first team after coming through the club's system.

Holbrook is relatively unknown to the British rugby league public - but there's precedent for that not to be a barrier to him being successful. Michael Maguire was relatively unknown before he turned Wigan back into a trophy-winning side.

His first test could be the televised Challenge Cup tie at Castleford on Saturday, 12 May. A cup run would immediately establish him as a Saints favourite.

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