Former Wakefield Trinity boss Mark Applegarth drifting away from coaching as reality of situation sets in

As the days pass by, Mark Applegarth finds himself drifting away from coaching and towards a career outside of rugby league.

Applegarth was officially sacked by Wakefield Trinity in late October but the writing had been on the wall for some time with Matt Ellis sat in the background ready to put his stamp on the club.

Even before his takeover had been ratified, Ellis made it clear Daryl Powell was the man he was backing to lead Trinity's promotion bid.

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That meant the end of Applegarth's one-year reign, even if he had to wait another month for confirmation.

Although he bears no ill will, the Wakefield native is at a crossroads after entering the job market at a challenging time.

Some clubs have reached out to Applegarth but he is still waiting to hold meaningful talks over a coaching position for 2024.

"I've had a couple but mainly informal," he told The Yorkshire Post.

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"It's a weird time to be looking because most clubs are fully stocked up ready for pre-season.

Mark Applegarth has been out of work since leaving Wakefield. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)Mark Applegarth has been out of work since leaving Wakefield. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)
Mark Applegarth has been out of work since leaving Wakefield. (Photo: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com)

"I've had some people say I can go into their environment to keep my toe in which is nice – but there hasn't been anything official in terms of rugby league offers.

"I don't want to walk into a job in rugby that just feels like a job. It's got to be a project with a vision behind it. I don't want to feel like I'm just turning up to work day in, day out.

"It's my passion and I want to achieve things in the game."

After entering new territory, there is an acceptance that he may not get the chance to fulfil his coaching goals.

Daryl Powell has taken the reins at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)Daryl Powell has taken the reins at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)
Daryl Powell has taken the reins at Belle Vue. (Photo: Wakefield Trinity)
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From his playing days to his long stints at Wakefield College and Belle Vue, Applegarth has always had work – and plenty of it.

The 38-year-old faces an uncertain future as he considers his next move.

"Like anyone, I'll have to keep my bills ticking over," he said.

"I've enjoyed having a bit of downtime but if there's no rugby work, I'll pick up some casual work for a couple of months. If nothing comes in the next few months, it'll be time to look for a more secure career.

Mark Applegarth celebrates his first win as head coach of Wakefield against Leeds. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Mark Applegarth celebrates his first win as head coach of Wakefield against Leeds. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Mark Applegarth celebrates his first win as head coach of Wakefield against Leeds. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
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"I've never been sacked from a job and had a gap like this so it's a new experience for me.

"The main thing is you keep your mind sharp and healthy, whether that's through exercise or doing tasks to keep engaged.

"You've got to look at opportunities that interest you and are going to challenge you while keeping the financial side of things secure and healthy because you've got a family to feed at home."

Applegarth has been invited to give leadership talks to businesses and help with team building.

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Should a coaching job fail to materialise, Applegarth could join the business world in a more permanent capacity.

"I'd like to think I've got a lot to offer, not only in rugby league – which is obviously my passion – but on the organisation side," he said.

Wakefield were relegated at Leigh in September. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)Wakefield were relegated at Leigh in September. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
Wakefield were relegated at Leigh in September. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

"You can either sit at home on your backside waiting for things to happen or get out there and meet people to try make things happen.

"I'm entering the job market new and inexperienced in terms of certain skills but then you've got an abundance of other skills like leading teams and communication.

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"It's just a case of meeting like-minded people and seeing if there are any opportunities out there."

Applegarth will always be associated with the club's relegation but that does not begin to tell the tale of his short spell in charge.

Operating on a modest budget, Wakefield pushed their luck one too many times and eventually ran out of rope after failing to arm Applegarth with the tools to keep the club in Super League.

The situation has changed dramatically since the ambitious Ellis took control but Applegarth now finds himself on the outside looking in.

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"I knew where the club was going," said Applegarth, who transformed the youth set-up at Belle Vue during his eight-year stay.

"When you look at the financial resources Matt has got and how he's approaching it, it's nothing we hadn't spoken about before behind the scenes.

"I fully understood Matt's reasons for appointing Daryl. I think Wakefield over the next four or five years are going to be a club to be at.

"Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I got the opportunity to coach in Super League and it was under pretty difficult circumstances for any coach.

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"I enjoyed the challenge nonetheless. I never once went into work thinking I didn't want to be there."

In contrast to Applegarth who had a small squad with cracks showing, Powell has been given the resources to build a formidable Championship outfit and an environment to thrive in.

It had the feel of the right job at the wrong time for Applegarth but there are no feelings of envy.

"It's all 'ifs'," he said. "I don't want to look back.

"It's all positive for the club. I don't want to be bitter about it. You see a lot of coaches that end up bitter and twisted about things.

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"It's life. Sometimes you get dealt a good hand and other times you've got to take some blows on the chin.

"There's definitely no bad blood from my side. I wish Daryl and the team all the success in the world.

"I don't think Wakefield will struggle getting back to Super League. I think they'll be straight back up."

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