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Why Saints landed a winner in Brown

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George Riley George Riley | 18:47 UK time, Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Current Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown has been backed to bring success when he takes over at St Helens next year - by the disappointed players he'll leave behind at the Galpharm Stadium.

The Australian this week aborted his planned return home at the end of the season to take over at Super League rivals Saints.

But despite his change of heart, the Giants players have wished him well and described the 38-year-old as the "best there is".

"He is the best coach I have ever had," said Huddersfield prop Eorl Crabtree (whilst cooking homemade meatballs if you're interested) who has worked with a few good coaches since his club debut in 2001.

Nathan Brown

Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown has agreed to take over the reins at St Helens. Photo: Getty

Since signing on at 17, England international Crabtree has played under England coaches Tony Smith and Steve McNamara. Yet he rates Brown above both.

"His knowledge of the game seems to be greater than any of them. He's the best man-manager I've worked with and his attention to detail in terms of working out other teams' gameplans is like nothing I've ever seen," said the forward.

Crabtree says Brown is a perfectionist in training and works on aspects "that we had never even contemplated", like the optimum moment in the attacking line that his team should be passing and taking the ball.

"He's given me a new dimension and an attacking license even though I'm a big, ugly prop. He has educated us in the game like a friendly schoolteacher and I've noticeably seen all the players' understanding of rugby league improve since he has been here."

To hear such passion for a coach from one of his players is hardly rare. But where Brown is out of the ordinary, is that he still thinks like a player, and wants to be one.

A neck injury forced the talented NRL hooker to retire prematurely in 2001 but it is clear the desire he showed as a top-flight player remains in his role as a coach.

Brown will get up at 7am and goes for a 10k run before training. From 9am he has the players watching videos of their own play and their opponents.

Then he joins in training out on the field and frequently pushes players out of the way to show them how it is done himself.

"He's a freak and he loves it," says Crabtree. "He has the young head of an intelligent player, rather than the old one of a coach. He's also been known to join in our afternoon weights session, but none of us really want to see that!"

What is striking about Brown's shaping of Huddersfield is his recent shift of emphasis to focus on his side's attacking play.

Their expansive, free-flowing rugby is a joy to watch when it clicks, and he has flair players like Danny Brough, Luke George and Greg Eden to make things happen.

But when he arrived in West Yorkshire the Australian's goal was to create the league's fiercest defence, and that laid the platform for a run to the Challenge Cup final in his debut year.

He spent hours every week working on wrestling - perfecting a tackling technique that involves one player focusing on the upper body, and another around the legs.

"It's so simple and within the rules but we had never been shown it before," says Crabtree who, as the nephew of wrestling great Big Daddy, understandably took to it well.

A defensively strong team that likes to play flowing rugby is a dangerous beast and that is Brown's mantra. "Saints play that way too, so they will be very exciting with Nathan in charge," added Crabtree.

"He won't go and totally change the team but I think he can mix the best of us, with the best of Saints, and produce something pretty special."

But are the players, and the Giants hierarchy, angered by Brown's move to Saints, given he told them he was leaving to go home to Australia? Crabtree says they have actually been angered by journalists fishing for such stories.

"We understand his decision, there's no bitterness," said Crabtree. "This is a business and he's been offered a great job. We knew at the start of the year he'd be leaving and he didn't have a job then.

"Now he's been offered one so why shouldn't he change his mind and stay? He is looking after himself and his family and none of this was pre-planned or in the pipeline.

"They persuaded him to change his plans and Huddersfield didn't. That's business. To ask if we feel betrayed is laughable."

As for St Helens, what a difference a fortnight makes. Royce Simmons' shock sacking, followed by two straight wins, over world champions Leeds and league leaders' Shield holders Warrington, and now the appointment of one of best coaches in Super League for next year.

Saints chairman Eamon McManus will already feel vindicated.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think Brown is a fantastic coach and I just wish he had won something with the Giants (though there is still time of course) so people in future will realise what a difference he made to that club. Watching players like Cudjoe and McGillvary improve so much really makes me think he could achieve even bigger things with the current Saints squad.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am also very excited about seeing Nathan Brown at saints next year, felt sorry for royce when he was sacked but Eamon took the plunge before two very big games, saints have won both and now have a successor who I would class as the best he could have got!

  • Comment number 3.

    I can understand how Saints will be pleased they have got their man, but I feel for Shudds (even from being a Wakey fan).
    Its like an acceptance that Giants will never be as big as St Helens, which (although it may be true) is a bit of a kick in the teeth I would think.
    So from that perspective, I hope Saints finish below Shudds every season during his tenure

  • Comment number 4.

    Will be very interesting to see how Anderson shapes up as the new coach at the Giants next year?

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh please. Browns done nothing thus far and wont at Saints. With the talent at his disposal at both of his clubs he should have swept all before him. Now with the skill level on Saints playing roster diminishing he'll struggle even further.


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