Batley winger and Siddal coach, Lee Greenwood, spoke to me after the two sides were drawn against each other in the 2010 Challenge Cup, leaving him in an impossible position…
RUGBY LEAGUE’s Challenge Cup has thrown up many a great story in its wonderful 113-year existence, but never has it left one man with loyalties torn like Lee Greenwood’s yesterday.
The coach of the Halifax-based amateur club, Siddal, was left dismayed when, having led his side to a superb 26-0 third-round win away at professional outfit Doncaster, they were drawn against Batley – his professional club.
Rarely has a story in recent years underlined the romance of the Challenge Cup, although that is of little consolation to the former Super League player.
Would he play against the side he coaches or coach against the side he plays for? In the end, Batley coach Karl Harrison made the decision for him by sending him away from Mount Pleasant at the start of last week.
“I don’t think anything like this has happened before and I hope it doesn’t happen again, because I wouldn’t wish it on anybody!” a still bemused Greenwood told League Express.
“Even after I knew I wouldn’t be playing, it didn’t make it much better. Coaching against my teammates isn’t an ideal scenario but the worst-case scenario would have been playing against the team I coach. That would have been the worst of the worst!
“A week or so ago I thought I would have to play because of the injury crisis at Batley but they’ve managed to get 17 names together without me.
“But playing against a professional team is still great for any amateur team and it’s been a great day for Siddal.”
In an eventful career, Greenwood has played for seven clubs – and in Super League between 1999 and 2005, scoring an impressive 39 tries in 81 appearances.
“I suppose I regret not having a longer Super League career, but I played in some struggling sides,” he said.
“I didn’t play as many games as I should have done at Halifax in the first two years and when I did it was in the year we only won one game.
“Then I went to London and had a good year but for whatever reason I didn’t play much the year after. I went to Huddersfield on loan and then to Leigh.
“I’ve no regrets over my career. I’d have liked to have played more in Super League, but if you don’t get the opportunity, you don’t get the opportunity.”
Greenwood has coached Siddal for four years and has aspirations to coach in the professional ranks in the future. Highlights have included a highly successful 2009 which saw then win the National Conference League and National Cup double, along with the Doncaster win.
“It’s definitely something I want to get into – whether it be the 21s or assisting,” he said.
“I coached with Luke Robinson for two years and then this is my second year coaching them on my own. This is my fourth year here.
“When I went to Sheffield [Eagles] at the age of 19 or 20, I went back to Siddal and coached the 17s and 18s, so it’s always something I’ve liked doing.
“To be honest, I don’t think beating Doncaster was that much of a shock because there were so many people tipping us, but I suppose the scoreline might have been.
“But it was a great result for us and a sign of how good we are because Doncaster haven’t exactly been losing every week. They’re a mid-table side in their division.”
Greenwood has played under a number of well-known coaches including John Kear, Gary Mercer, Tony Rea, Jon Sharp and now Harrison.
“I’ve taken a lot from all the coaches I’ve played under – even the not-so-good ones because it shows you what mistakes to avoid. I’ve played for some very good coaches.
“Karl’s a good motivator who keeps it simple – he knows exactly what he wants out of you. I also played at London when Rohan Smith [son of Roosters coach, Brian, and nephew of Warrington coach, Tony] was on the staff there. He was very technical and I learned a lot of him.
“Jon Sharp was another very good technical coach and Tony Rea was big on discipline. I’ve picked something up from them all.”
When asked who the best players are at Siddal, who are enjoying another excellent league season, Greenwood is reluctant to name names, emphasing their quality as a team.
“Everybody – we’re good as a team. We don’t have many representative honours in our team – we nearly always get overlooked for some reason. There’s only Lee Gudor, our halfback, who has made a representative team in the last two years yet we’re a team who won everything last year in the amateur game and who beat Doncaster this year.
“But it makes my team talks easier when we’re coming up against five or six internationals in some sides!”