On Thursday night, Daryl Powell will take charge of his 501st game as a head coach when Castleford Tigers travel to Hull FC in Super League.
Powell began his coaching career while still playing for Keighley Cougars in 1996 before going on to take charge of Leeds Rhinos, Featherstone Rovers and Castleford, as well as having a spell in rugby union with Leeds Tykes.
He passed the milestone of 500 games in the Tigers’ 23-18 derby win over Wakefield Trinity last Saturday, and ex-Leeds team-mate Barrie McDermott and former Cas director of rugby Jon Wells sat down with Brian Carney to discuss what makes Powell tick…
Wells: Adaptability key for Powell
Sky Sports rugby league pundit Wells worked closely with Powell from 2018 to earlier this year in his role at the Tigers and was impressed with what he saw.
It was not just the work he did on the training ground with the players which caught the eye, but also how Powell has adapted himself – a trait which the former Castleford winger believes has served the 56-year-old well throughout his career.
“It’s probably worth saying there are not many coaches or players who get to that level, and you don’t do that without having a self-awareness and an ability to adapt and change,” Wells said. “That’s key among his personality traits.
“I actually think the time he was at Castleford was the time he felt the most pressure because it’s his hometown club and the club he supported as a child.
“It framed a lot of the thinking, certainly in my time working with him. There was an adaptability and an emotional intelligence which has allowed him to stay at the top of the game for as long as he has.”
Powell’s eight seasons at Castleford have yielded two Challenge Cup final appearances, a maiden Super League Grand Final appearance and a League Leaders’ Shield success, while they are currently fighting to make the play-offs for what will be his final campaign in charge.
Wells praised the work the former Great Britain international has done in improving Castleford’s players, although expects him to face a different challenge when he moves to Warrington Wolves next season.
“He’s at a club, with all due respect to Castleford, not blessed with the resources financial or in terms of the stadium to attract top-line players,” Wells said.
His real skill, which I saw on a day-to-day basis, was wringing every last ounce of ability – perhaps even to levels players didn’t know they could get to.
Jon Wells on Daryl Powell
“His real skill, which I saw on a day-to-day basis, was wringing every last ounce of ability – perhaps even to levels players didn’t know they could get to.
“There will be big egos, big wage packets and people who’ve been having their own way at Warrington.
“He’ll come in with his own designs on things and he’ll bring all the stuff we’ve talked about and all those positive things, but I think that will be his biggest challenge.”
McDermott: Powell can bring the best out of players
Sky Sports rugby league pundit McDermott first played alongside Powell for Great Britain in 1994 and would later play alongside him at the Rhinos.
The prop also played under Powell during his spell as Leeds head coach and saw how he took the assets he had as a half-back into his off-the-field role.
“Daryl always had a voice, always had an opinion and was pretty good at getting it across,” McDermott said.
“I already had a friendship with him and it only reinforced to me he was passionate about the game and passionate to the point he was obsessed with it, but he just wanted to win.
“He took over from Dean Lance, but I think one the main influencers of him and myself was Graham Murray.
“I see a lot of what Graham Murray brought into his environment with what Daryl Powell brought into his by being a good bloke, being honest, having integrity and not being afraid to say things when you need to – but when you say those things, you need to own those words and back it up.”
I already had a friendship with him and it only reinforced to me he was passionate about the game and passionate to the point he was obsessed with it, but he just wanted to win.
Barrie McDermott on Daryl Powell
Powell’s departure from Leeds was followed by him switching to the city’s rugby union team and then returning to the 13-man code with Championship side Featherstone Rovers in 2008.
His successful spell saw Castleford come calling in 2013 and McDermott believes that time Powell spent at Rovers allowed him to hone the skills which have made him one of the stand-out British coaches of his generation.
“We don’t value British coaches, we don’t value the apprenticeship the Championship can give British coaches, so we dismiss them in favour of an assistant who’s working in the NRL nobody has heard of,” McDermott said.
“Coaches can either get all this knowledge they’ve got and try to implement it onto your playing staff and try to get what you’ve got into them, or you can look at the player and what they’ve got and try to bring that out.
“That’s what Powelly has been able to do. He might get a six out of 10 player and make them eight out of 10 on a regular basis.”
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