HE HAS spent much of the last decade analysing Super League from in front of the camera lens but now Jon Wells feels ready to take former club Castleford Tigers to the top of the competition as its director of rugby.
It was a busy time for the West Yorkshire club yesterday as they first announced chief executive Steve Gill would stand down at the end of May and then revealed Sky Sports pundit Wells – who played for the Tigers between 1997 and 2002 – had arrived in the new role.
After five years at the helm, in an open letter to fans, Gill did not give a specific reason for his own departure but he has undoubtedly had a remarkable effect on his hometown club, taking them from the brink of financial disaster to a first-ever League Leaders’ Shield last term.
He will remain involved on the board while commercial director Mark Grattan will step up to now become Castleford’s managing director to help formalise the structure of the new senior management team.
Kippax-born Wells has earned plenty of praise for his astute analysis on Sky – a role he will continue – and that will clearly come in useful as he looks to help identify future players for the club.
The 39-year-old, who also played for Wakefield Trinity and London Broncos, will work alongside head coach Daryl Powell and the board of directors at Castleford looking after football matters from the bottom up.
“This is an improving, progressive club with the potential now to establish itself as one of the top clubs in Super League for years to come,” he said, as they seek to build on last year’s success when they also reached a maiden Grand Final before losing out to Leeds Rhinos.
“To be asked to help contribute in setting that agenda is both flattering and tremendously exciting.
“It’s a really good time to be coming back to the Tigers; a great coaching staff, a brilliant and growing fan base, and talented and dedicated players that really do deserve to be competing in and winning the biggest matches in our sport.
“My job is to help provide the environment in which they can do just that.”
It’s a really good time to be coming back to the Tigers; a great coaching staff, a brilliant and growing fan base, and talented and dedicated players that really do deserve to be competing in and winning the biggest matches in our sport.Jon Wells
Wells played alongside current assistant coach Danny Orr at Castleford and London and Tigers chairman Ian Fulton admitted: “We are delighted to welcome Jon to the club in the new role of director of rugby.
“Jon’s knowledge of rugby league and passion for Castleford Tigers is invigorating and we are sure he’ll be a great fit in this new role. This will allow Daryl and Mark to concentrate on their day-to-day roles with Jon providing the perfect link between both departments.”
Gill, who held roles from scoreboard operator to assistant coach and head of youth at Castleford, recruited Powell and saw the club reach the 2014 Challenge Cup final before last season being named Super League’s club of the year.
He said: “It has been a privilege and an honour to serve the club who I have supported since boyhood, and together we have shared some special moments over the past five years.
“The club itself is possibly in the best position both financially and structurally I have ever known it, and credit must go to everyone involved at the club, for their hard work and commitment in achieving what seemed like the impossible in the early days. Between now and the end of May I’ll be working with the board on the transition of my responsibilities to others.
“After that I am pleased to be staying on as a director of the club, committed to seeing Castleford Tigers continue to move forward. Hopefully I will get around to thank a lot of people for their help in turning the club around, and you, our loyal supporters, for your unwavering support.”
In his solitary radio interview with Radio Leeds, Gill – who has battled depression and was also the victim of a physical assault in the town last March – said he felt his “sparkle had gone.”
Fulton added: “The past five years have really tested us as a club and as a group, but I believe we are all stronger for confronting these issues.
“Throughout all these events, when tough decisions had to be made, Steve like the rest of us, has always showed honesty and integrity in these processes.
“As fans you will know what this club means to Steve.
“If you have spoken to him or heard him speak, you will know his passion for the club he has supported since being a boy, and in the years going forward Steve will not be a stranger at the club.
“I am pleased he has agreed to stay on as a director, so he will continue supporting the club as he has always done.”