Dream job with England enables Paul Anderson to get back in the game

Former Huddersfield Giants coach Paul Anderson, now an assistant to Wayne Bennett with England.
Former Huddersfield Giants coach Paul Anderson, now an assistant to Wayne Bennett with England.
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FOR such a patriotic man, Paul Anderson admits getting the chance to help coach England is a dream scenario especially considering where he was just four months ago.

It was in June that Huddersfield Giants sacked their head coach of four years, a sequence of poor results leaving the side he had previously led to the League Leaders Shield in 2013 – and Super League semi-finals just last season – suddenly destined for a relegation dogfight.

FEEL THE FORCE: Paul Anderson finds his path blocked while playing for Great Britain against Australia at Wigan back in 2003. Picture: Steve Riding

FEEL THE FORCE: Paul Anderson finds his path blocked while playing for Great Britain against Australia at Wigan back in 2003. Picture: Steve Riding

Of course, his time with the West Yorkshire club went back further still; he was an assistant coach, first for Jon Sharp and then Nathan Brown, from 2007 before taking on the main job in 2012 so, clearly, the decision was a seismic shift for the former Grand Final-winning Bradford Bulls prop.

As all of them know, head coaches jobs are few and far between but, after a period of uncertainty, Anderson found himself a way back into the sport with the RFL announcing at the end of last month the Yorkshireman would work as a full-time assistant to their new England head coach Wayne Bennett.

It means the 44-year-old, who played 10 Tests for Great Britain and another five with England, will be fully immersed in the Four Nations shortly, working with the country’s finest players in their bid to finally win a major tournament for the first time since way back in 1972.

“To work at this level – the elite level – and get back in the game after what has been a disappointing year is very, very exciting,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“Obviously, I was very, very disappointed by what happened at Huddersfield.

“But I wish them well under (new coach) Rick Stone and I am very, very happy they’ve survived the scare they’ve had.

“Hopefully the players – and the club – will learn from that experience and take lessons.

“Weirdly, for me, it was a good time for it to happen, if that is possible.

“You never want to lose your job like that, obviously, but it did mean I was able to spend four or five weeks in Australia with my family on a bit of a Busman’s Holiday.

“I’d have never have been able to do that before and I knew if I didn’t do it now I never would.

“But it was great to go out there and see how the NRL clubs operate. I managed to spend time at the (Sydney) Roosters, Cronulla, most of the Sydney clubs in fact, and was very fortunate that my mate Browny is now coaching at Newcastle Knights.

“We spent 10 days with him and it was great to both get away and also pick up so much.

“I watched some State of Origin, too, and it was excellent.”

All of that will have helped the Castlefordian now as he starts work with Australian legend Bennett, who arrived in the country yesterday to prepare with Anderson, fellow assistant Denis Betts and football manager Jamie Peacock for the challenges ahead, starting with next Saturday’s one-off Test in France.

But having beaten the number one world-ranked team New Zealand over a Test series last autumn, the last act of Anderson’s former Bulls team-mate Steve McNamara before he lost his job as national coach, there is a greater belief that England can finally end their painful drought at major tournaments.

With his vast knowledge of Super League players from his time at Huddersfield, Anderson will certainly be of use to the veteran Bennett, who has spent most of this year leading Brisbane Broncos in the NRL.

“There’s going to be some intriguing debates about selections,” he said, with the 24-man squad boasting real depth of quality.

“There will be lots of opinions and we’ll be asked no doubt what we think and what our ideas are on certain things.

“Ultimately, it’s down to Wayne, though, and I’m looking forward to working with him and assisting him in anyway I can.”

Working on the international scene will undoubtedly bring back recollections of Anderson’s own playing experiences at this level. Asked about his favoured memory, he cites his Great Britain debut in 1999 even though it ended in a 42-6 Tri-Nations defeat to Australia.

“I was given my first cap by Andy Goodway,” he said, the likes of Paul Sculthorpe, Andy Farrell, Jason Robinson, Iestyn Harris and, co-incidentally, new colleague Betts also playing on that night in Brisbane.

“It was at the old Lang Park Stadium and, although it obviously wasn’t the result we were after, the memory certainly sticks out for me.

“Playing my first Great Britain game over there was very special indeed.

“You always dream as a kid about playing for your country –it’s the pinnacle of the game.

“Once you’ve played Super League or the old division one, you wanted to push on and gain representative honours.

“I was fortunate enough to do that and now I’m looking forward to working with our current international players in doing that, too.”