FEATHERSTONE Rovers have appointed former Leeds Rhinos head of youth development John Bastian as their new head coach for 2014.
The move will come as a surprise to some as Bastian – who Warrington Wolves announced only last month will be leaving his current director of youth development role there in November – has never coached a professional club at senior level.
However, having worked for nearly a decade under the influence of ex-England boss Tony Smith at both Headingley and now Warrington, Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell believes he is the ideal man to take the high-flying Championship club into Super League following Daryl Powell’s switch to Castleford Tigers.
Bastian, who played for Rovers from 1988 to 1992 before joining Dewsbury, oversaw the development of the likes of England star Ryan Hall in Leeds’s revered academy and has been similarly influential during the last five years at Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Campbell said: “For Featherstone Rovers to be successful and sustainable, I feel we need to establish a strong production line of homegrown talent which the club was famous for in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
“I feel with his experience of being a player, coach and experience of developing young players that John is the ideal man to implement this ethos at the club.
“In the search for a new head coach, I have spoken to a number of people who are all excellent coaches in their own right.
“But after speaking with John and listening to his vision for the club I am positive he is the man to take us forward.
“The appointment may raise a few eyebrows but with the proposed structural changes to the game in the near future I am convinced John will put Featherstone Rovers in a strong position.”
Bastian was introduced to the club’s supporters last night and will be charged, among other things, with turning Featherstone’s league dominance into silverware.
Under Powell, they finished top in each of the last three seasons, losing only five regular Championship fixtures along the way, yet only won the title once, losing two Grand Finals and, also, last year’s Northern Rail Cup final.
“I’m relishing the challenge of being head coach at Featherstone Rovers,” said Bastian.
“I’ve built up a strong knowledge of the game during my time at both Warrington and Leeds.
“I’ve been fortunate to work under one of the best coaches in the world in Tony Smith for nine years and feel this experience will stand me in good stead.
“Daryl Powell has done an excellent job at Featherstone and, in fact, gave me my first coaching opportunity at Rhinos.
“I’m looking forward to building on the platform he and his team have laid and progressing the long-term development of the club.”
Bastian has signed a three-year deal and starts work on December 1 with Powell’s assistant Ryan Sheridan remaining in temporary charge for the remainder of this campaign.
Ex-Huddersfield Giants centre Greg Worthington, meanwhile, last night signed a two-year extension at Featherstone.
Halifax, who defeated Rovers in last year’s Northern Rail Cup final, begin the defence of their title with a televised game at Dewsbury this evening.
Elsewhere, Bradford Bulls winger Jamie Foster has signed a new two-year deal, while Michael Platt and Jamie Langley are back for their trip to Salford tomorrow night.
Ex-England captain Adrian Morley is set to return from a three-month lay-off against Hull FC, who have Jamie Shaul in for the injured Liam Watts.