BY THOMAS ALDERSON
There are countless components that go into making a successful sporting team. Whilst the players understandably grab all the headlines for their heroics on the field, the backroom staff are just as accountable for a team’s success and failure as the players, perhaps in some ways even more so.
Much has been said about the mastery of Toronto Wolfpack Head Coach Paul Rowley, as he looks to take the club to Kingstone Press League 1 glory and automatic promotion, but I’m sure he would be the first to point out the contributions of a man who has flown under the radar in the club’s journey so far, Assistant Coach Simon Finnigan.
Originally from Warrington in the UK, Finnigan retired from a decorated playing career that spanned ten years across five clubs along the infamous M62 corridor. The last club he played for was the now Super League side Leigh Centurions where, aged 32, he elected to join Rowley, the Centurions’ coach at the time, on the club’s coaching staff. Since then he has never looked back and the nine time Irish international has continued to bring the toughness and dedication he brought as a player to his approach to coaching.
Signing alongside Rowley as the Wolfpack’s number two for the 2017 season, Finnigan has worked as part of a duo that have combined brilliantly to mastermind an almost flawless League 1 campaign to date, as Toronto sit clear at the top of the table with only one league defeat all season.
The two have come a long way together and from looking back at their time at Leigh, the Wolfpack boss recalled the journey Finnigan has been on to become an integral part of rugby league’s newest venture.
“He had a year left on his contract at Leigh and he was starting to look a bit tired so I suggested to him it may be time to jump on the coaching staff,” said Rowley.
“We have very similar philosophies and ideas on the game and how it should be played so it has been a natural progression for him.”
Finnigan and Rowley are not afraid to challenge each other though, and therefore get the very best out of one another, which filters down to the Wolfpack players and you can see for yourself the rewards the club are reaping from their dominant displays on game day because of this.
“It’s all rugby for us. We argue and get on each other’s nerves a bit but we always come up with a solution that we back each other on and it’s something the players get behind too,” said Finnigan.
Finnigan has been alongside Rowley every step of the way in the challenges presented to them in coaching and coordinating rugby league’s very first transatlantic team. Factoring in all the travel and logistics is something the Wolfpack have taken in their stride and there is no doubt the players have their assistant coach to thank just as much as their head coach for what has been a smooth transition towards playing rugby league in Canada.