Rick Stone did a tremendous job of keeping the Giants in the Super League last season, but does he have what it takes to return the club to contender status?
When Stone took over as Giants’ head coach in July, the club’s Super League future was hanging in the balance. This either made him a glutton for punishment or supremely confident in his abilities to save them.
In the end, the 49-year old justified the Giants’ decision to award him with a two-and-a-half year contract. With five wins in the Qualifiers, they secured their Super League status for another season.
Of course, this now leads to the question of what the 2017 campaign will hold for the Claret and Gold? More to the point, is Stone the right man to help the club once again become contenders?
Certainly, the former player has a lot of experience in the coaching ranks, which should help. This includes being in charge of the Fiji national team, between 2011-15.
Stone spoke to the media last month about his plans for 2017. Among other things, he discussed what he has already learned about the players and how this will help.
Stone said: “(I now have) a little insight into what the playing group are like and what we need. That will give us a good idea about how to get ourselves ready for pre-season and next year.
“We need a little more time to embed principles and structures and we will have that now. Hopefully (we will) be a more rounded and more consistent team next year.”
The former Newcastle Knights’ head coach seems to have the right attitude for the challenge. This was particularly evident in his objective analysis of the team.
Stone said: “We have got to get tougher. We can lay some foundations in our pre-season training and you can improve players’ resolve, their work ethic and wanting to play for each other.
“We have got to improve on those things. As the weeks went on, particularly in those Middle 8s at times we were good at it and at times we weren’t.”
When Stone was appointed, there was a lot of interest in the position, which speaks volumes about how much he impressed the board of directors. At the time, managing director Richard Thewlis referenced his desire to succeed, combined with his ability to rebound from adversity.
If the Qualifiers are any indication, the players have embraced Stone’s coaching style. Speaking recently to the Giants media department, Ryan Brierly said: “Without Rick, we probably would have been in trouble.
“He brought a lot of intensity and accountability to the group, which is what we needed at the time. I think we’re in good hands with Rick.”
Looking ahead to the 2017 campaign, Brierly discussed what he expected from Stone: “He’ll probably bring a few new faces in to freshen us up and I think the training will be a lot harder than last year, which is what this group needed.
“We’re a talented group of individuals, but we need to work a lot harder and I’m sure Rick will do that for us. The start of the new season can’t come soon enough.”
Overall, on the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, it does appear the Giants are in good hands with Stone. Whether this is enough to return the club to their rightful place as contenders, remains to be seen.
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How much belief do you have that Stone is the right man for the job? Do you expect him to return the Giants to contender status, or do you anticipate another season of struggling at the wrong end of the table? Let us know in the comments section below?