Justin Holbrook insists his coaching career in the NRL remains buoyant, going on to highlight Titans advisor Mal Meninga‘s influence in his decision to favor the Roosters over the Bulldogs. Previously sacked as Titans coach, Holbrook was projected to link up with English football outfit Warrington. However, he finally chose the Roosters, with the club’s top-tier official, Nick Politis, besting Bulldogs Football Manager, Phil Gould, in the ensuing negotiations.
Holbrook acknowledged he was on the threshold of reaching an agreement with the Wolves and going back to England where he had a glorious stint with St Helens, securing a premiership. However, the input of NRL Immortal Meninga, swayed him to stay in Australia. Meninga, who helped recruit Holbrook at St Helens back in 2019 for the Titans, was instrumental in this process despite Holbrook being controversially terminated from the Titans in June, with the club preferring Des Hasler.
The offer of a reprieve came from Roosters coach Trent Robinson, which resulted in him reconnecting with his old assistant. Holbrook first joined the high-profile Bondi club in 2014, before his switch to St Helens. In his words, Holbrook said, “Mal was a great source of guidance for me during this period.” He followed on by revealing, “I had a sincere discussion with him concerning all the available options and Meninga’s input helped me make my final decision.”
Meninga advised him to ignore all other considerations and follow his instinct as to where he could add the most value in his coaching journey. Holbrook recalled, “When we discussed the Roosters, Mal said,‘Buddy, I reckon you’ve just responded to your own query.’ I’ve been weighed down by all the speculation about my future, I’m delighted now to have made a choice.”
Holbrook would have been in a pivotal position at Warrington, but the aspects of moving his four children to a different country influenced his decision to sign a three-year contract with the Roosters. The Bulldogs were persuasive in their attempt to secure him, with Canterbury’s football boss Gould personally flying out to the Gold Coast to make a last-gasp proposal. Holbrook, however, is committed to assisting Robinson in reconstructing the Roosters into title challengers.
Holbrook said, “The decision was not easy.” He further disclosed, “I was on the brink of going to Warrington. Having had an enjoyable tenure as the lead coach at the Titans and wonderful memories of my time at St Helens, rejecting the offer was tough. Saying no to the Bulldogs was equally challenging since I had previously worked with ‘Gus’ (Gould), whose knowledge of rugby league is unparalleled.”
Balancing out all the factors, which included family matters, Holbrook found Roosters to be the best fit for him. He added, “I have a profound insight into how the Roosters operate. I have previously been with them and have a good rapport with Trent Robinson.” The coach’s knack for identifying talents and challenges intrigued Holbrook who felt the move to Roosters would broaden his coaching acumen.
Holbrook’s record as an NRL coach still hangs in the balance with only 31 victories in his 82 games at the Titans, translating to a modest 37 percent win rate. However, his immediate focus is to integrate smoothly into the Roosters‘ setup although he envisages returning as a head coach in the NRL sometime in the future.