FORMER coach Richard Agar says a desire to “compete” was behind his decision to leave Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Agar’s shock exit was confirmed yesterday, 24 hours after Wildcats were beaten 20-12 at First Utility Super League relegation rivals Bradford Bulls.
But Agar revealed he made his decision a month ago and said it was not related to Wildcats’ recent poor run of results.
The ex-coach has stressed his “total confidence” in successor James Webster’s ability to keep Wildcats in the elite competition this year.
Webster has been promoted from his role as Agar’s assistant, taking over - on a permanent basis, rather than as caretaker coach - with immediate effect.
Agar - who was the 10th longest-serving coach in Trinity’s history - told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I told them (club chiefs) a month ago I was going to look for a move at the end of the season and could I be released from the remaining two years of my deal?
“The club has found it hard to compete and as a coach that is frustrating. I understand what happened in the off-season (when Wildcats had to slash their budget and several leading players left the club) and I am not afraid of that challenge at all.
“But the club need to decide what they want to be.
“Do they want to rebuild the team every year or two, or do they want some stability and to put more into it so they can compete?
“It was not a decision based on results, it was based on the fact the club is about to come into the recruitment period, I felt I have done my time here and I wanted to start looking for a new job.”
Agar said he and the club had agreed to carry on until after the game against Bradford, as that would give his successor a long turn-around to the next game, at home to London Broncos a week on Friday.
“I am sorry we didn’t get a result (last Sunday),” Agar - who is the France national boss – admitted. “I would have loved to go out with a 10-point buffer, but it was not to be. It was a tough decision because I have loved my time here, I have really enjoyed it and I have worked with some good people and got brilliant staff.
“But it was a personal decision. I want to compete and that is really hard here, but the club is getting better and it will be able to strengthen in the off-season. I am confident the club will stay up.”
Agar has given his backing to Webster, who he said has been a “brilliant assistant”. He added: “He has an extremely smart rugby league brain and he has got the respect of the players. He knows the players in the squad and he will be smart enough to put his own stamp on it. I wish him all the best.”
Webster, 34, had a previous spell as player-coach at Hull KR, as well as in the assistant’s role at Hull.
He said: “It hasn’t been dropped on me. Once Rich informed the club they spoke to me, we had a chat about what I could do for the club and I am very excited and honoured they have given me the job.
“The importance of the year is not lost on me and I am looking forward to getting started. I am just going to be myself. Whether that’s different or not, I can’t do anything about that. I am not going to be somebody I am not.
“Everybody has a different personality and different philosophies. I will stick to what I think is right and best for the team and the club and time will tell if that is successful or not.”
Of Agar, Webster said: “We are great mates, Rich and I. He gave me my first gig in full-time coaching - though I was captain-coach at Hull KR for three months - and he has been really good to me.
“He has invested a lot of time in me and he has seen his job as improving the staff as well as the players. I will always be grateful for what he has done for me.”
Agar informed Wildcats’ players of his exit yesterday afternoon, leaving captain Danny Kirmond with “mixed emotions”. Said the skipper: “We really feel we have built something over the last few years and Rich was a main part of that.
“He has done a lot for the players - he took me from someone who was not playing to captain of my hometown team and I respect him for that. He has his reasons for leaving and we respect that. Everyone’s a bit gutted, but we have to move on, work hard for James Webster and pick some wins up.
“Rich is one of the best coaches I have worked under, but James is a smart guy, he has worked under Rich for a long time and he’s going to bring his own ideas, which hopefully will pick us up a bit. It is mainly down to us, we have not been performing up to standard.”
In a statement, Wildcats chairman Michael Carter said: “I’d like to thank Richard for all he has done for this club. He has handled himself with superb dignity and worked tirelessly for the cause. We fully respect his decision to move on and all parties were in agreement the timing was right for James Webster to take charge. We are sure he will continue to do an excellent job for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.”
The YEP understands Warrington Wolves are considering offering Agar a place on their backroom staff, though the former York and Hull boss denied he has a new job lined up.