Slammin’ Sam Burgess And Warrington Wolves’ Golden Gamble

Warrington have swapped Daryl Powell for Slammin' Sam
18:00, 08 Aug 2023

Big name, big club, big gamble.

Sam Burgess to Warrington was a done deal as soon as the former Great Britain international answered the phone to say he was keen.

A man of immense presence with a contacts book likely to light up the Wolves haphazard recruitment, Burgess is nonetheless a seismic gamble as head coach for a club desperate for both success and stability.

The 34 year-old will leave South Sydney Rabbitohs to take up his role next season, at a club who last week admitted they got it wrong in appointing Daryl Powell, one of the most experienced and respected coaches in the British game.

The reaction to the news from fans was a mixture of excitement, head-shaking, and - from rival fans - the usual mocking, of which the club’s persistent pursuit of hitherto elusive Betfred Super League success has generated an almost constant flow.

Warrington have always been keen on making big moves that generate a lot of surrounding noise and media coverage. But after their spectacular abandonment of the Powell project just 50 games in, they must know this next move is a gamble that has to pay off.

Although the finer details of the contract have not been disclosed, Burgess will be on big money. I’m told that Warrington’s top target Justin Holbrook was offered upwards of £300,000 to take over but still turned it down. After Holbrook’s u-turn the Wolves turned to Burgess and the deal was as good as done straight away.

Of the other names linked, most were non-starters. Paul Rowley was the leading name already coaching in Super League, but the truth is the Salford Red Devils boss was not even approached by Warrington, not a single bit of dialogue.

Club legend Lee Briers was the other big name linked but he is having far too much of a good time at Brisbane Broncos to even consider returning to a club that ended his 25-year stay in a conversation lasting less than two minutes.

So Slammin’ Sam gets his big chance and who is to say he won’t prove a big success. Anyone who knows Burgess will speak highly of him, and his character. Those who do not will no doubt cite his well-publicised demons and trouble with the law in Australia. Whether he is the man to change Warrington’s culture - which so many point to as a crux of their ongoing issues - remains to be seen. However the very least he deserves is a chance.

One big rumour doing the rounds is that Burgess to Warrington will see another Great Britain legend Sean Long move to the Wolves as assistant coach. This story gathered pace when Long was sensationally sacked by Featherstone on Monday night, despite guiding Rovers into an eight-point lead at the top of the Betfred Championship with just six games to play.

Many have connected the dots to assume the sacking was linked to the Warrington story but I’m told that is way off the mark.


Featherstone’s shock decision to remove Long so late in a season which has them overwhelming favourites for promotion, is a club decision that has nothing to do with the Warrington rumour that I understand is unfounded.

On the face of it it is a baffling move, but the club simply believe their ultimate goal of reaching Super League has the best chance of being delivered with Director of Rugby James Ford at the helm, rather than Long. And with the way that IMG are shaping the sport, that promotion for Featherstone has to be delivered this season.

As for Long, this was his first shot in a head coach role and he is gutted not to see out a season that his side have led from day one. But he has other offers on the table and is unlikely to be out of work long.

So that leaves Castleford Tigers, suddenly battling for survival with rivals Wakefield Trinity at the bottom, who need to appoint a head coach ASAP after sacking Andy Last following Friday’s home defeat by Huddersfield Giants.

The club says it hopes to make an announcement on Wednesday, with John Kear a leading candidate, Danny Ward also linked, as well as - you guessed it - Sean Long.

Another rumour that can be dismissed is that former Wakefield boss Willie Poching was flying back from New Zealand to take the job. When I spoke to Poching about the link on Monday he was sitting on his sofa in Auckland watching the Lionesses, having had no contact at all from Castleford.

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