Former St George Illawarra coach Steve Price has tipped close mate Justin Holbrook to breathe new life into the Gold Coast Titans.
Holbrook became the fourth permanent head coach in the Titans’ 14-season history when it was announced last July he’d take over in 2020.
The 44-year-old is the third appointment in six years for a team that’s reached the NRL finals once in the last decade and been beset with financial and off-field issues.
The role at Robina has been seen as something of a poisoned chalice since the departure of foundation coach John Cartwright in 2014.
The club’s highest finish since 2010 was an underwhelming eighth in 2016 when Neil Henry’s side was thumped 44-28 by Brisbane in the first-round of the finals.
Henry was sacked midway through the following season and his successor Garth Brennan departed after round 17 in 2019, 18 months into a three-year contract that saw the team win just 12 times in 40 matches.
Holbrook’s appointment from English side St Helens was greeted in lukewarm fashion after he beat off competition from Queensland Origin coach Kevin Walters for the role.
But Warrington coach Price insists Holbrook has the personality and nous to lift last year’s wooden spooners after a superb two-and-half-year Super League stint.
“He’s a good man is Justin and what he has done over here with St Helens last year to win the grand final was a tremendous feat,” Price told AAP.
“He’ll get them playing for each other and I can see the Titans making some really big improvements.”
Price and Holbrook grew up together in south-west Sydney where they attended East Hills High in Panania and the former Cronulla Sharks assistant coach said his close friend fully deserves his crack in the NRL.
“What people don’t realise is that he has formed a good, solid base of coaching coming through the grades back home,” Price said.
“He’s coached reserve grade and under-20s for a number of years and been assistant coach at the Roosters and Parramatta.
“He’s come over to Super League somewhat unknown and was brilliant at St Helens.
“All that will put him in good stead.”
Price has also tipped the affable Holbrook to lift the atmosphere around the perennial battlers and turn the club into a competitive force in 2020.
“There are only a number of positions available in the NRL, but there is a real market for something exciting there on the Gold Coast for the coach that can get it right,” he said.
“What Justin will do is galvanise the squad and bring everyone around the club together.
“He will get them playing a good style of football and I can see them causing a few upsets and surprising a few people on the way.”
© AAP 2020