FORMER Castleford Tigers player Stuart Donlan is returning to the club in a new role as assistant coach to Ian Millward – and he cannot wait to get started when the players report back for pre-season training on Monday.
Donlan, 33, retired as a player at the end of the 2011 season after turning out for Leigh in the Co-Operative Championship. His career saw him enjoy two spells with the Centurions as well as appear for Huddersfield, Halifax and Cas, where he made 50 appearances in 2007 and 2008, scoring 28 tries.
He has harboured ambitions to move into coaching for a while with qualifications to back this up and is delighted to be taking the first step on the ladder in Super League with the Tigers.
He told the Express: “I’ve signed a two-year contract with another year option and I’m really looking forward to getting started on Monday.
“I spoke to Ian Millward while he was in Australia and he offered me the job.
“After I left Castleford as a player and signed for Leigh I went on to do a degree in sports coaching so it’s something I’ve been looking to get into.
“With me coming to the end of my playing career it’s a great opportunity to take up the assistant coach role at Castleford and work with Ian Millward again. Ian offering me the job made retiring a lot easier for myself and it was an offer I couldn’t turn down.
“Obviously playing at Cas a few years ago I know some of the lads. I’ve been watching some of them develop.
“Richard Owen had just broken into the team and Joe Arundel was a young lad on the edge of the first team when I was around.
“It will be good to go back and coach them and hopefully help them develop in future years.
“When I came to Cas originally everyone made me feel very welcome and my family as well so the opportunity to come back is something I’m looking forward to. I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck into this new job.
“Castleford reminds me a lot of Leigh. It’s a Rugby League town and the fans are really passionate about the game. They are vital to the club being a success.
“The fanbase at Cas is really strong and hopefully if we can put a winning team on the paddock the foundation can only get stronger. We would like to build on what they did last season under Terry Matterson.
“To be starting my career coaching under Ian will be good for me. I’ve known him since he first came to England in 1998-99 and as far as I’m concerned he’s the best coach I’ve played under. I think he will be really good for Cas.”
Donlan believes it is a good time to be joining the Tigers, predicting a bright future for the club.
He said: “It’s a club on the up. On the pitch it was a good effort to reach the Challenge Cup semi-final, although losing on golden point was obviously a heartbreak and maybe affected the run-in towards the back end of the year.
“We’ll be coming in looking to build on that and put our own stamp on things and hopefully progress the squad even further.
“Looking further forward moving into the new stadium it’s all looking good for Cas.
“There’s some good young players in the first team squad and I’m sure Ian will also bring the young players on that are on the edge of the squad and give them an opportunity when it arises.
“Hopefully we can put our slant on things and help the squad progress and develop further and achieve something next year.
“I’ve not really spoken with Ian yet about what exactly he wants me to work on. But I know he will be doing a lot of computer based things and gathering stats and hopefully I can get out there on the paddock with him and learn from him. Obviously I want to help develop the youngsters to the best I can.”
The Tigers have also confirmed that coach Millward has been holding talks with players while in Australia with a view to signing for the club for next season.
Although talks are at an early stage, the club are committed to adding to their squad in the coming weeks.