Newly appointed Roosters assistance coach, Justin Holbrook, has shed light on why he turned down an offer from Phil Gould to join the Canterbury squad, and has also reassured that he would not attempt to draw Gold Coast key players Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and David Fifita to follow him to Bondi Junction.
Holbrook caught the attention of several NRL and Super League clubs after the surprising decision by the Titans to replace him with Des Hasler. With an impressive reputation as an astute tactician, he was on the brink of becoming the head coach at Warrington. He admits, “A day or two ago I was nearly on a plane to England.” He also seriously weighed up the prospect of joining the intellect of the Bulldog’s team.
The proposal from Canterbury’s head honcho, Gould, was persuasive. There was also strong interest expressed from several NRL clubs. Nonetheless, Holbrook felt that reconnecting with Roosters coach Trent Robinson, whom he had previously collaborated with, was the right match.
Speaking publicly for the first time since deciding his future, Holbrook confirmed it was a relief to conclude the conjecture about his next move. He opened up about the difficulty of resisting Gould’s proposition. “Definitely, absolutely. I was close to going to the Bulldogs,” he conceded.
In his discussions with Bulldog’s head coach, Cameron Ciraldo, he found a great mentor and person. In regards to Gould, he stated, “With Gus, you could sit around and listen to him all day. He’s a great person to listen to, and have a chat to, that’s for sure. He was excellent, he didn’t put any pressure on me whatsoever. I told him the reasons why and he understood that.”
Reflecting on his decision, the ex-Titans coach said, “It was hard and probably, in the end, the fact that I knew Trent, I know it’s going to be great. It’s been seven years since I’ve worked there, obviously I got an opportunity to be an assistant under him, which I really enjoyed, I learnt a lot.”
Having had a prior stint with St. Helens, a return to England was on the cards, however, it just didn’t feel right to Holbrook. His association with Robinson at the Roosters presented an opportunity to assist in reviving their former glory.
Despite the departure of Holbrook from the Titans, key players Fa’asuamaleaui and Fifita have retained clauses in their contracts enabling them to be free agents if the coach exits. This clause was activated the moment Holbrook was let go, leaving the players three months to decide their future.
With Holbrook’s shift to the Roosters, rumours of the star forwards joining him at Bondi Junction are ripe. However, Holbrook dismisses such conjecture “Not at all. I don’t want to add to that speculation,” he insists. “Tino is the captain there, he’ll stay at the Titans, I’m sure of that.” he added.
Holbrook further asserted that he worked hard to keep Fifita’s partner on the NRLW side for his stability. He affirms, “So no, I don’t expect either of them to go. It wasn’t a clause for them to come and follow me wherever I go, it was more to have the security of me staying. That’s probably one of the reasons the club never asked them their opinion before doing what they did, because they would have known the answers.”