St George Illawarra v Hull FC: Featherstone to NRL - Agar happy to embrace new challenges in life

Richard Agar making himself at home in Illawarra
Richard Agar making himself at home in Illawarra
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EVERY day Richard Agar drives up to one of just five parking slots situated on the famous eastern hill at Wollongong WIN Stadium.

In doing so, it probably means he adds another 200 yards or so on the walk to his office, situated in one of the stands behind the posts, but you soon see why it has become a daily routine.

Richard Agar in Illawara

Richard Agar in Illawara

At the top of the grassy bank, where hundreds of fans locate to watch St George-Illawarra, there is a sweeping panoramic view down along a beach as far as the eye can see with the Pacific Ocean cradling it all behind.

For a lad from Featherstone, soaking up that vista alone, just for a few seconds, allows the former Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity coach to remind himself just how fortunate he is.

Agar had already had a varied career before finding himself in this coastal city, around an hour’s drive south of Sydney.

He played semi-professionally predominantly for the likes of Dewsbury Rams and Featherstone Rovers, his footballing brain as a stand-off clearly coming to the fore in a coaching career that has encompassed places as diverse as York, France – he was national coach between 2013 and 2015 – and now New South Wales.

I’ve never been one for making decisions that have left me stuck in a comfort zone; I’ve always been prepared to say ‘all right, let’s have a go at this and what’s the worst that can happen?’ Whatever the worst is, I know I can handle it.

Richard Agar

The last three years have been spent working with Tony Smith at Warrington Wolves but he has never been frightened to embrace different challenges such as this current departure working for the Dragons’ recruitment department under former St Helens and Castleford Tigers coach Ian Millward.

“I grew up in ruby league, I love the sport and it’s been very good to me,” Agar told The Yorkshire Post. “As a coach you obviously experience the highs and the lows but I was probably shaped quite early when, in my late teens, I lost my mum.

“That experience gave me a real attitude in life that I would try and make the most of it and not be too afraid of taking opportunities.

“I’ve never been one for making decisions that have left me stuck in a comfort zone; I’ve always been prepared to say ‘all right, let’s have a go at this and what’s the worst that can happen?’ Whatever the worst is, I know I can handle it.

“With this job it was a big call in terms of relocating for the obvious family reasons – leaving our families behind – and it was very much a change of job.

“But I was looking forward to that; coaching and coaching at the highest level can be absolutely relentless.

“Of course I still work hard but I’m not in that day-to-day grind. It’s given me the opportunity to develop a different skills-set and live in a truly beautiful part of the world.

“I like Australians. I like Australia. I always have done. It nearly came off for me after the World Cup in 2013 when I almost joined an NRL club but for one reason or another – mainly personal circumstances and really loving being coach at Wakefield at the time – it didn’t happen.

“But now it was now or never time. I don’t think I could wish to be in a better spot than Wollongong and I feel very lucky to be here.”

Agar, who will see his new club take on one of his former ones when St George-Illawarra face Hull FC at ANZ Stadium today, has signed a three-year contract but has a five-year sponsorship to stay in Australia.

The role itself is “multi-faceted” covering a raft of layers at the NRL club whose stars include England internationals James Graham and Gareth Widdop.

Agar, 46, explained: “Although I do have an overall responsibility for recruitment, particularly for the junior rep’ sides which are Under 16s and 18s, I also have a couple of days a week coaching the Under-20s alongside Wayne Collins, who is a former team-mate of mine at Dewsbury.

“I oversee the junior rep’ coaches almost in a mentoring role; I’m there for them, they’ll ask me things, pick my brains, I’ll watch training sessions, occasionally jump into training sessions and do bits of coaching.

“We’ll discuss previews, reviews and man-management issues and – I will say – that’s a part of the job that I’ve really enjoyed.”

Agar, a few months into the role, is not completely alien to his new patch either.

“I did play a season down this south coast when I was a kid, just before rugby league went to summer,” he recalled. “It was the last opportunity where you could play in an off-season and I went to a side called Eden Tigers.

“One of my mates was from Wollongong and he was mates with Brett Rodwell who used to play here (for Illawarra Steelers).

“I got to know guys like Brett, (ex-Illawarra/player agent) Dave Riolo and Brendan O’Meara who later played with me at Dewsbury.

“So in all sorts of indirect ways, both with St George and Illawarra, I’ve got some connections and I’m not starting from scratch.”

Dave Craven is on tour with Hull FC in Australia in association with