Dave Craven: Long-term planning key after Sandercock’s exit at Rovers

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IT is fair to say Craig Sandercock will never go down as one of Super League’s most verbose head coaches.

When even Hull KR’s own media man struggled to elicit anything other than a few bland, pithy responses to questions for the club’s weekly video preview, you knew pleasing the press was pretty much at the bottom of the dour Australian’s agenda.

Indeed, when Rovers delivered that most crucial of wins – derby success over bitter rivals Hull FC – Sandercock would still often have the demeanour of someone who had just seen a winning Lottery ticket blown into the Humber.

All of that is, of course, irrelevant; being media friendly is not a pre-requisite when it comes to being a successful Super League head coach.

Results on the pitch certainly are but, although Hull KR’s have not been great in 2014, it was a surprise to many to see Sandercock given the boot on Thursday night. Sources close to him say he was “shocked” by the development which occurred with the club in ninth place, just three points adrift of the play-off spots, which is their minimum target for this campaign.

He has been praised for nurturing a crop of decent youngsters at Craven Park and plenty of players say his ability to actually coach – the technical insight plus then delivering his message – is excellent.

Some of his recruitment has been spot on, too, not least the acquisition of Travis Burns and, more lately, the capture of Kevin Larroyer, Michael Weyman and Ade Gardner.

Sandercock had been in talks about a new one-year deal but the fact that was the length of the contract says plenty about why the club eventually pulled the plug.

Unconvinced Rovers only offered him the same short period of tenure last season, too, to extend into 2014.

Sandercock had initially signed for two years when arriving as a relative unknown from his role in the Newcastle Knights backroom staff at the end of 2011, but twice now Rovers’ hierarchy have chosen only to talk short-term extensions.

Clearly, they do not have the belief that he is the man to take them forward for years to come and, when that fact is always constantly nagging away in the background, it becomes easier to dismiss him.

Sandercock was a surprise choice in the first place and, although he has had some highlights – not least four derby wins – and suffered some shocking bad luck when it comes to injuries to key players, it never did seem like a true fit.

You can easily imagine him doing what he does best – coaching players – back on the training field as an assistant in the NRL and he is a diligent, dedicated and tireless worker who, for all his dislike of media duties, was always polite.

But Rovers must now look to appoint someone they have complete, unwavering trust in.

It is a critical period for chairman Neil Hudgell and their board.

Francis Cummins would be an obvious choice to take them forward after his bizarre exit from Bradford Bullls and current assistants Chris Chester and Stanley Gene may both throw their hat into the ring.

But, whatever happens, Hull KR have to make sure they take time to get the right man in place as, it transpired, they failed to do so last time around,