Wakefield Trinity Wildcats head coach Chris Chester was not surprised by Hull KR’s decision to sack him after just three games this season as he had already sensed they were preparing the way last year.
He will face his former club tonight for the first time since his February exit, when Rovers removed him following a winless start to Super League.
Chester took over struggling home-town Wakefield only three weeks later and has overseen nine wins from 11 games since in a remarkable turnaround.
With Rovers, he took them to Wembley last August, his first full campaign since stepping up from assistant, but also missed out on the top eight.
Asked if was surprised the East Yorkshire club relieved him of duties so early in this campaign, after a draw and two losses, Chester replied: “No. I got a sense towards the back end of the season before that things weren’t going particularly well.
“I don’t think I have anything to prove. I got them to a Challenge Cup final for the first time in 30 years and hold no grudges. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happens in sport where they wanted a fresh change.
“They thought things had gone stale. I can cop that. I dusted myself down and was fortunate enough to get a job here at Wakefield Wildcats that I really enjoy.
“But I wish the club well; it’s a club close to my heart. They gave me my first opportunity – first as an assistant but then as a head coach – and I can’t thank enough people at the top like (chairman) Neil Hudgell, (vice-chairman) Rob Crossland, (CEO) Mike Smith (finance director) Anthony Langley, those kind of people who stood by me during the tough times.”
Ahead of tonight’s game at Belle Vue, where a Trinity victory could almost end Rovers’ chances of making the top eight once more, Chester continued: “I’ve been in touch with quite a lot of the (KR) boys.
“I speak to a few of them and the CEO quite regularly and have the occasional text with Neil and Rob. We parted ways amicably and we’ve all moved on.”
Wakefield sit in sixth looking for another win to secure a rare place in the play-offs.
The 38-8 defeat at Salford Red Devils last Friday was their first loss in five outings and Chester is expecting a response.
“We were disappointed with the performance,” admitted the 37-year-old, whose side trailed 10-4 at the break but were down to 11 men with Danny Kirmond and Ben Jones-Bishop both sin-binned.
“It just shows how far we’ve come as a group. I didn’t really have to say too much after the game or in the review – the guys genuinely took over.
“They were very disappointed with themselves and knew we were a long way off in a lot of areas but the one good thing about this group of players is that when we have had a defeat we have bounced back the following week
“We’ll see tomorrow night how far we’ve come as a group.”
He knows only too well the threat of Terry Campese, Hull KR’s captain and stand-off who was rested for Saturday’s loss in France to keep the Australian fresh for this encounter after a series of injuries.
“He’s massive for them,” said Chester, who worked with the gifted former New South Wales State of Origin player last season. “He’s a big player. They’ve wrapped him in cotton wool and rightly so; when Campo plays, the team generally plays well.
“For us it’s just about cutting his time down with the ball and trying to get over their forward pack. I think they are a very good, strong, forward pack in Mitch Allgood, Dane Tilse and Adam Walker with a smart dummy-half in Shaun Lunt who’s been playing particularly well.
“So the biggest threat is their go-forward; we need to limit the time Campo has with the ball and Albert Kelly, too.”
Rovers, who are strongly linked with former England coach Steve McNamara as their head coach for 2017, have won just four games so far this term. James Webster, the former Trinity chief, has had a positive impact since taking over on an interim basis but they remain hamstrung by injuries.