Rugby League: Ousted Tonga coach Kristian Woolf signs with St Helens

Woolf.
Woolf. Photo credit: Getty

Super League club St Helens have appointed Tongan coach Kristian Woolf to succeed NRL-bound Justin Holbrook.

Woolf, who finished the NRL regular season as caretaker boss of Newcastle, will take up a two-year contract on November 1 as Saints' new head coach.

The move comes days after he was released by the Tonga National Rugby League Board in a move that raised the ire of a handful of the team's senior players.

They threatened to boycott the upcoming World Cup Nines, and tests against Australia and Great Britain, should chairman George Kolomatangi and secretary William Edwards remain in their position, after a dispute over finances.

That stand-off resulted in Woolf being dismissed, after he threw his support behind his players' threats to strike.

"We consider that Kristian is ideally qualified and placed to build upon the current success of the team and the club," St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said.

In appointing the 44-year-old Woolf, Saints are continuing a growing trend of Super League clubs opting for NRL assistant coaches.

Trent Robinson and Michael Maguire achieved their mark in Super League with 
Catalans Dragons and Wigan respectively, before landing top jobs in the NRL.

Holbrook has followed suit and will begin pre-season training at battling Gold Coast in November on a two-year deal with the Titans.

"He has the experience and expertise to bring the best out of our existing squad, and to improve it further," McManus said.

"We are very confident that the Saints will seriously compete for honours under his tenure, and that we will continue to play attractive and exciting rugby league."

Woolf has been an assistant at Brisbane, North Queensland and the Knights. He famously guided Tonga to the 2017 World Cup semi-finals, where they lost 20-18 to England.

"I'm excited and privileged to be joining St Helens as head coach," Woolf said. "It's something I have always wanted to do and it's a great opportunity for me. 

"St Helens is a club with an amazing history and I'm confident we can achieve great things together."

AAP/Newshub.

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