Head of Youth Andy Kelly says he will not “detach” himself from Huddersfield Giants’ heartbroken Academy players – mourning the tragic death of team-mate Ronan Costello – despite taking over as first-team caretaker coach following Paul Anderson’s sacking.
Anderson was dismissed yesterday with the West Yorkshire club joint-bottom of Super League after just four wins from 18 matches this season.
Huddersfield have also stood down assistant Kieron Purtill, who was due to leave at the end of the season to join Leigh, and Kelly will take charge of tonight’s fixture at Salford Red Devils.
For all Anderson, who was in charge for four years and led Giants to the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield, will be saddened at losing his job, he knows it pales into insignificance compared to the horrific events suffered at the start of what has been a harrowing week for the Fartowners.
Costello, 17, died on Tuesday having never recovered from injuries suffered during Saturday’s Academy’s game against Salford.
Kelly, of course, knew the teenager well and was there at the time of the accident which has seen the sport unite in grief once more barely 12 months on from the death of Keighley Cougars player Danny Jones who died after suffering a cardiac arrest during a game in London.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “At the time, you probably didn’t understand how severe it was. The medical team and doctor on the touchline were so fast to react and be on the field giving Ronan treatment but then we realised this was different.
“Soon everyone did know how serious it was – it was a worsening situation. It has been heartbreaking for everyone and all our thoughts go out to Ronan’s family. You never expect this to happen.”
There will be a minute’s applause at tonight’s game and all fixtures this weekend, while the Costello family have asked any donations to go to the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund. Kelly continued: “Given the tragedy and the difficulty of the whole situation, the family has conducted themselves outstandingly well; they have an overwhelming compassion for everyone else.
“It is and continues to be an extremely difficult and delicate week. We’ve had a lot of things we’ve had to consider and work through. That continues.
“There has to be business as usual. That shouldn’t sound cold.
“There still has to be a lot of care and consideration given to the Academy players and, of course, all of Ronan’s family.”
Kelly – who last coached in Super League with Wakefield in 2000 – joined Huddersfield two years ago after working with the RFL and maintains he has the “mental strength” to steer the side through the coming weeks as the club searches for a permanent appointment. The 55-year-old, who has also coached Ireland as well as Featherstone Rovers, Dewsbury Rams and Gateshead Thunder, said: “Considering the position I’m in with Ronan, I’ve attached myself to the first-team but I’m not detaching myself from the Academy lads.
“I’ve still got a duty of care for those young men but in the short-term I’m happy to take on the role. I feel mentally strong enough and in some respects I’m proud to do so in the circumstances.”
Kelly says he has spoken to Anderson who “understands” the situation and he will now try and revive the side who have lost their last three matches and seem destined for the Qualifiers.
“We’ve got to find some form and consistency,” he said, with former England coach Steve McNamara, Paul Rowley and Geoff Toovey linked to the role.
“We’re four from 18 and going into the Middle Eights situation and the Challenge Cup (quarter final v Wakefield) next week, we need to find some form.
“If changing things brings that reaction – that artificial lift – then great but we need something more sustained than that.”
Former Bradford Bulls and Great Britain prop Anderson, 44, had been with Huddersfield since 2007, initially as assistant to Jon Sharp and later Nathan Brown.
He succeeded Brown in July 2012 and they finished top the following year for the first time since 1932. Anderson signed a new two-year contract last June that would have taken him to the end of 2017 but having finished third last season his side tumbled spectacularly this time around.
Giants chairman Ken Davy added: “It’s with great sadness we make this change involving two individuals who have previously taken the club to its greatest achievements since the ‘Team of All Talents’.
“Unfortunately the simple fact is results this year haven’t been satisfactory and Giants are not performing to the level anyone associated with the club expects.
“This is another sad day for all concerned with Giants in what has been a dark and difficult period for the club but it’s also the day we draw the line in the sand and move forward with the united aim of turning losses into wins, putting smiles back on the players, staff and supporters faces.”