By Jon Newcombe
NEW Yorkshire Carnegie head coach Steve Boden does not have a magic formula to re-establish the club as serious Premiership promotion contenders – unless it’s hard work, technical expertise and building on the good culture created by his predecessor Jimmy Lowes.
Lowes’ second spell in charge of Carnegie came to an end by ‘mutual consent’ last week but his departure from the club seemed inevitable once New Zealander Chris Stirling had been appointed as DoR. Very much his own man, Lowes doesn’t see himself as a No.2 and is now set to return to coaching in Rugby League.
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Boden, 35, steps up from forwards coach to work under Stirling, who intends to be hands-on with the backs, while academy coaches such as Scott Barrow, Steve Salvin and Stuart Dixon will offer additional support. Ilkley head coach Nathan Smith joins the coaching team having impressed while shadowing Boden last season.
“I am looking forward to it, it is an exciting opportunity,” said Boden, who arrived at his hometown club from Jersey two years ago.
“I am thankful for what Jimmy has done for me. I respect him as a bloke, I highly rate him as a coach and I still socialise with him outside of rugby. I learnt a lot from him about being able to strike from deep and his philosophy around that, but I think that was sometimes forced upon us because we didn’t have a kicking option.
“Now that we’ll have recognised half-backs this year, it’ll help give us more of a balance and a range of options not just a run-at-all-costs game or a kicking game.”
While Boden enjoyed his time working alongside Lowes, he has also been impressed by new man Stirling.
“Stirlo has been great since he came in, he is world class. He says he has every faith in me and has praised the work I’ve done, and it is good to get that feedback. He is so organised, and his man-management is really good. Jimmy’s man-management was exceptional too, to be fair, but in a different sort of way.”
Under Lowes and Boden, Carnegie finished a creditable sixth last season. Considering they went into the Championship campaign with no pre-season behind them and a threadbare squad, the club’s owners can have few complaints about the way things panned out.
This season, the club’s budget will be less not more, but Boden is relishing the prospect of helping Carnegie punch above their weight.
“Yorkshiremen are known as no-nonsense, hard-working gritty sort of people and if we can bring a bit of that plus the technical and skills aspects then I think that, eventually, we’ll be on the right path. It is not going to be a season that is all plain-sailing though. The first thing to ensure is that we enjoy turning up for work as staff and players and try to get better and better every week.
“There are a lot of teams out there spending a lot of money and, for one of the first times in many years, we are not one of them,” he added. “There is a bit of pressure off us in that respect because I’d say there are probably five or six teams with bigger budgets. It is a bit of a role reversal and refreshing in a way.”
Boden is “a Leeds lad” and understandably proud to become head coach at the club where he first started out in professional rugby, as U19 captain. The hooker went on to play nearly 200 games for Doncaster and finished his career in Jersey, retiring early because of a neck injury.
“I’m a young coach, I am 36 in August, but I started coaching at 27/28 because I knew it was something I wanted to get into. I have seven/eight years of experience coaching in the Championship so in that respect I am quite experienced.
“When you first start out in coaching you’ve got the blinkers on and think you know everything, but you don’t. The way you coach evolves over time, but you should never go away from who you are. I have definitely learnt to manage people better than when I started out, but I’d still say I am blunt and straight to the point, I think you have to be in professional sport.”
The RFU Level 3 coach is big on detail, and his ability to get the best out of players is evident in the likes of England tight-head Harry Williams and the many other front-row forwards now plying their trade in the Premiership having initially worked with him.
“I am a big believer in basics first – doing the simple things exceptionally well,” he said, bluntly. “You can be the most aggressive and powerful bloke in the world but if your technique lets you down, it isn’t going to get you very far.”
How far Boden can take Carnegie with a mid-table budget remains to be seen but it won’t be for a lack of trying on his behalf if they fall short.