CASTLEFORD Tigers coach Ian Millward (pictured), who is preparing this week to make his return to Super League after a six-year absence, has admitted it was a mistake to take the Wigan job back in 2005.
Millward had enjoyed the Midas touch at St Helens, guiding them to two Grand Final wins, two Challenge Cups and the World Club Challenge in five glorious years.
In 2001 he was named Super League coach of the year, but his reign ended acrimoniously four years later when he was sacked for gross misconduct.
Just two weeks later he stunned the rugby league world by joining Saints’ arch rivals, but again it ended in tears less than 12 months later when he was dismissed with the Warriors rock bottom of Super League after winning just one of their first eight matches of the 2006 season.
“Mentally I wasn’t ready for the Wigan job,” Millward admitted. “After the St Helens thing, that took a lot out of me. Looking back, I should have taken a break for a little while.
“Having said that, I had success here and I always thought I would be back at some stage.”
Millward returned home to Australia in October 2006 and coached at North Queensland Cowboys and Canberra before he was tempted by a third spell at Leigh, the club that first gave him his coaching break in 1998.
Now 51, he is back in Super League with Castleford, who open their 2012 campaign against Salford at the new Barton stadium on Saturday.
“I needed to refresh myself and I also needed to challenge myself,” he said. “I went back to Australia and really enjoyed it, but I came back for family reasons.”
Millward, who steered Leigh to Northern Rail Cup success last July, had been linked with the Salford vacancy before jumping at the chance to succeed his fellow countryman Terry Matterson at the Tigers.
It is his first job in Yorkshire and a far cry from St Helens and Wigan, with Castleford operating well below the salary cap as they press ahead with plans to move to a new stadium.
Millward has made just four signings for the new season, with two others arriving on loan from Warrington, and he is content to operate on a shoestring budget as the Tigers continue to rely on home-grown talent.
In particular, the club have two of the most promising hookers in the game in Adam Milner and Daryl Clark and, of course, possess the current Man of Steel in Rangi Chase, a New Zealander who has settled in the town and chose to play for England in last year’s Four Nations Series.
“We’ve probably recruited the least in Super League,” Millward added. “Nine players left and we’ve brought four in.
“It’s exciting here from a long-term point of view. It’s an area that produces young kids and we’re relying a lot more on locals.
“We’ve retained and upgraded some good young players like (Oliver) Holmes, Clark and Milner and Rangi Chase. Some of our money has gone into that.
“I think we can really build something here. We’ve got to be patient and get all the foundations right. If we do that, we can move forward.
“Obviously the club has got a big focus on getting into the new stadium. As much as we say the youth development will underpin the rugby league, the new stadium will underpin the whole business.”