HULL KR chairman Neil Hudgell says he will be “disappointed” if he does not eventually offer caretaker head coach Chris Chester the job on a permanent basis.
The assistant was placed in charge until the end of the season following Craig Sandercock’s sacking on Thursday and certainly got off to a perfect start with this emphatic win over Super League leaders St Helens.
Craig Hall and the recalled Omari Caro both scored hat-tricks as Rovers, just 14-10 ahead at the interval yesterday, destroyed surprisingly inept visitors with six unanswered tries during a blistering 22-minute spell in the second period.
The likes of ex-Bradford Bulls coach Francis Cummins and former Great Britain chief Brian Noble are keen to take on the Craven Park role, but Chester, who has been an assistant there for five years after retiring early as a Hull KR player in 2008, is the front-runner, according to Hudgell.
“There are a lot of people throwing their hat into the ring,” he said. “That’s fine but at the moment our focus is on trying to support Chris.
“He’s very well thought of in the club and the game, has been an assistant to Justin (Morgan) and Craig; he’s in the box seat and we’re not going out trawling for a new coach.
“We were grooming and developing him to take that job maybe rather sooner than we anticipated. But rather like kids, or young players, you don’t know if they’ll cut it unless you give him a chance and we hope he cuts it.
“We’ll review our options in the hope – maybe the expectation – that Chris will earn a long-term deal over the next few weeks.
“I will be disappointed if at the end of the process, he isn’t offered that. It looked like they played with some confidence (yesterday) and freed of a bit of fear.
“It is obviously only one performance, but it is a performance that has got Chris’s reign off on the right toe.”
This resounding victory takes the East Yorkshire club to within a point of eighth-placed Widnes but, with a trip to Leeds Rhinos on Friday, Hudgell says making the play-0ffs is not imperative for the 35-year-old to secure the job.
Meanwhile, on the dismissal of Sandercock, the Australian who had been in charge since the autumn of 2011, Hudgell said: “He was disappointed.
“Anybody in that position takes pride in the job they do. If you weren’t disappointed and devastated by what had happened, that would be slightly surprising.
“There is a human element to it all and we feel for him. We are friends and hopefully that will remain the case.
“But it is what is best for Hull KR that ultimately matters. We decided we weren’t going to renew the contract. Then we considered where does that leave us?
“We either allow Craig to see it through to the end of the year or give Chris a chance to step up for a period of time. We thought that was the best option.”
Chester confirmed he did want the appointment but conceded to mixed feelings about the circumstances.
“I spoke at length with Craig (on Saturday) and he’s desperately disappointed,” he said.
“But he told me to make the most of this opportunity. He has helped me a heap over the last three years and I told the boys I thought we – me and the staff as well – had let him down. We could have helped him more and that (Saints) result was for Sandy.
“It’s been a tough couple of days but that (match) couldn’t have gone any better and I’m real proud of them.
“We had a bit of a heart-to-heart, mainly about belief and honesty, and I thought we got lots of it.”
Saints have now not won in seven successive games at Craven Park, last triumphing in the 2008 Challenge Cup quarter-final, a game in which Chester played for Rovers shortly before the neck injury that forced his retirement.
They had no answer to the energy and fluency of the hosts who shrugged off Sandercock’s surprise exit to remind people of their true talent when at full tilt.
Winger Caro had not played since scoring twice in the Easter Monday defeat at Catalan, overlooked by his former coach since David Hodgson’s return to fitness.
However, with fellow winger and loanee Ade Gardner unable to play against his parent club, the 23-year-old got his chance and took his tally to 12 tries in just nine games.
Another wideman, Hall, who announced on Friday he is joining Wakefield Trinity in 2015, was similarly prolific while Graeme Horne’s excellent 50m score in the 54th minute crucially opened the floodgates.
Full-back Greg Eden was at his attacking best once more, too, and rounded things off at the end, the influential Travis Burns kicking four goals, while woefully error-ridden Saints were limited to just two first-half tries from Mark Percival and Mose Masoe.
Dave Hodgson (calf) and Kris Welham (concussion) are doubtful for Headingley while Jonathan Walker, the ex-Castleford prop sacked by Hull KR on Saturday for an alcohol-related breach of discipline, could end up at Leigh.
Hull KR: Eden; Caro, Welham, Hall, D Hodgson; Burns, Keating; Netherton, J Hodgson, Weyman, Horne, Lovegrove, Ollett. Substitutes: Carlile, Larroyer, Cox, Green.
St Helens: Wellens; Makinson, Turner, Percival, Swift; Hohaia, Wilkin; Richards, Roby, Walmsley, Manu, Flanagan, Soliola. Substitutes: Masoe, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Jones, Thompson.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).