ASSISTANT coach Willie Poching says he is just “holding down the fort” at Hull KR after taking temporary charge following head coach Chris Chester’s surprise sacking, but admits he does want the chance to become No 1.
The East Yorkshire club announced on Wednesday morning that Chester had been “stood down” with immediate effect by winless Rovers, just three games into the new Super League season.
They had lost 14-12 at home to strugglers Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Sunday following an opening day draw with Castleford Tigers and 38-8 defeat at Warrington Wolves.
Chester, 37, had only been in charge since July 2014 and had taken on Poching, the former Leeds Rhinos and Warrington assistant, as his No 2 at the end of that year.
He takes charge of Friday’s home game against St Helens with speculation mounting about who will be the next chief at KC Lightstream Stadium.
Paul Rowley, who walked out at Leigh Centurions just a few weeks ago, is 4/5 favourite according to Ladbrokes while Hull-born former England coach Steve McNamara, currently a Sydney Roosters assistant, is 5/1 and ex-Hull FC chief Richard Agar 6/1.
Poching, the former Kiwi second-row who won a Super League title as a player with Leeds in 2004, is fourth favourite at 6/1.
“I’ve had ten years as an assistant and I’m not a head coach yet, I’m just holding down the fort,” he said.
“It’s not the way I would have liked things to happen, but I’ve got a job to do to prepare the team for the best way possible.
“I’m genuinely excited to work with the players we’ve got here.
“The group have been great coming in and working with them, and I’m excited for Friday. The short turnaround is something that’s helpful because it means I get a crack at things straight away.”
Asked if he wanted to be a head coach, Poching added: “Definitely. I’ve waited almost ten years, as I say, for a chance to come along.
“I’ve bided my time, I’ve done an apprenticeship over the last few years and I’ve come into this club as a coach to one day take charge of a team, and I still want that - I still harbour that ambition.”
But he was unwilling to discuss the future too much at today’s press conference.
“I found out (about Chester’s exit) yesterday afternoon,” said the ex-Wakefield Trinity player.
“I just want to speak about Friday’s game against St Helens. As far as I’m concerned my focus is only on Friday at the moment, and I’ve told the players that’s all I’m focussed on.”
Rovers have been plagued by injuries to key players at the start of the campaign and there is no imminent return for captain Terry Campese, former England hooker Shaun Lunt or prolific winger Josh Mantellato.
“Terry is still a little way off,” said Poching.
“We’re putting him through his paces at the moment and we’re testing him out, and he’s coming through quite well, but it’s something we’ve got to be patient with.
“Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.
“Josh is still a little way off; when it’s something as dangerous as your vision you’ve got to be careful, so we’re waiting for the clearance from the doctors.
“We’ve got 19 fit players and the squad hasn’t changed from last week.”