CHRIS CHESTER admits when he won the Challenge Cup alongside Hull FC’s Danny Brough in 2005 he never for one moment thought his team-mate would still be starring at the top now.
“But then again, neither did I think I’d be a Super League head coach!” the Wakefield Trinity chief told The Yorkshire Post.
“It’s great to finally get to work with each other again.”
Chester, of course, has brought the talismanic and prolific scrum-half to Belle Vue ahead of 2019 in what, in many eyes, could yet be the best signing of the new season.
Granted, some eyebrows were raised when Wakefield did make the surprise move to re-sign Brough from Huddersfield Giants on a two-year deal last month.
For starters, Brough will be 36 by the time Trinity’s campaign starts at newly-promoted London Broncos on February 3.
He has so much experience and is already getting people in line, stamping his authority on them in training and showing the standards he expects of people. Every fitness drill he’s near the front, if not winning it, and his hunger and enthusiasm is plain to see.Wakefield Trinity head coach, Chris Chester
However, anyone who has seen the former Scotland captain in action of late, will know he still has the ability and quality to remain one of Super League’s most influential players.
After back-to-back top-five finishes saw Wakefield miss out on the competition semi-finals in the last two years (it will be enough to reach the play-offs in 2019), Chester firmly believes Brough’s addition will help the West Yorkshire club reach that crucial next level in its development.
“Danny’s been like a breath of fresh air and just what we needed,” he added, with the former Man of Steel ready to line-up alongside Australian stand-off Jacob Miller.
“He has so much experience and is already getting people in line, stamping his authority on them in training and showing the standards he expects of people.
“Every fitness drill he’s near the front, if not winning it, and his hunger and enthusiasm is plain to see.
“He is a class player and so far, so good. I’ve seen some very, very positive signs with Milky (Miller) already and I couldn’t be any happier. I’ve got a great relationship with Danny and personally feel – as do others in the club – that he will be the final piece in the jigsaw for us.”
That reasoning is understandable; Trinity have long had a formidable pack, arguably the biggest in Super League with David Fifita, Anthony England and Keegan Hirst allied to the quality of Dream Team second-row Matty Ashurst, Australian hooker Tyler Randell and Tini Arona.
Factor in their brilliant backline – marauding centre Bill Tupou and new England cap Tom Johnstone both made this year’s Dream Team, strapping centre Reece Lyne also earned England recognition and Grand Final winner Ben Jones-Bishop starred for Jamaica – and the signs are clear.
But Miller, the 26-year-old who has quietly developed into one of Super League’s leading halves since joining from Hull in 2015, required support.
Chester sees Brough as the person who can offer that support and, with his poise and kicking control, help turn so many narrow defeats into wins.
Strangely, it his third stay at Wakefield, having started his career there in the Academy. He debut with his hometown Dewsbury Rams and made his name with fellow lower league side York City Knights before moving on to Hull.
After a spell at Castleford Tigers, Brough rejoined Trinity from 2008-10 before spending the bulk of his career at Huddersfield, who he captained to the League Leaders’ Shield in 2013, the year he also won Man of Steel.
Along the way, he has been pivotal in some of Scotland’s most memorable performances while, earlier this year, he rose to the position of seventh-highest points scorer in British rugby league history when he surpassed Cyril Kellett’s total of 3,686.
Chester remembers him best from their Black and Whites days when Brough’s match-winning conversion helped stun Leeds Rhinos but he added: “It’s so long ago now and we’ve both matured as people.
“His game-management is still the best in the comp’; the way he can speed up or slow down the game with his kicking is superb.
“He’s a cool-head and you’d never believe he was 35 the way he’s trained. We’ve done a hell of a lot of fitness work – we’re four weeks in now – as well as a lot of stuff with the ball and he’s right up there in it all.
“I can’t wait to see how that combination works and how we progress as a club.”
Castleford second-row Oli Holmes, who made his England debut recently, will miss the start of the season after being told he needs up to four months to recover from shoulder surgery.
Tigers prop Will Maher, who spent most of last campaign in Halifax colours, is also out for three months after cruelly tearing a pectoral muscle in the first session of pre-season training.
Former Hull KR second-row Kevin Larroyer has joined Halifax on a one-year deal after leaving Leigh Centurions.
Ex-Bradford Bulls back-row James Donaldson, 27, will look to earn a deal with Leeds Rhinos when he starts a trial there today after his release from Hull KR.