Former Leeds Rhinos back together leading England RL

THERE was a time when Colin Maskill and Shaun Wane literally used to bash heads together.

Monday, 20th April 2020, 5:00 pm
Humble start: From Castleford reserve team coach to England team manager, Colin Maskill talking to former GB sprinter Dwain Chambers during his short stint at the Tigers.

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As rivals front-rows in the early 1980s, when scrums were actually contested, it was inevitable the pair would get in close proximity, whether legally or not.

Maskill was a talented hooker at Wakefield Trinity before joining Leeds while Wane was an uncompromising prop for a Wigan side that was about to embark on its famous period of domination.

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Eventually they became team-mates at Headingley, forging a friendship that lasts to this day.

It is one of the reasons why Wane, the new England coach, has appointed his experienced mate as team manager ahead of the Ashes series this autumn and the 2021 World Cup.

Speaking about how they first met, Maskill told The Yorkshire Post: “We’d played against each other from junior football, from colts into the first team.

“And with Waney being in the front-row, I used to get into one or two tangles with him. We also used to butt heads, as they say, and it always came to that point where, from a scrummaging perspective, I always used to come into contact with him to put a gentle touch on.

“But then when he signed for Leeds that’s when we started playing together.”

Although Wane played for Great Britain, debuting in 1985, Maskill did not quite reach Test level.

It was perhaps no surprise given hookers of the ilk of Bradford Northern’s Brian Noble and Castleford’s Kevin Beardmore were around at the time but he did represent Great Britain Under-24s.

Maskill – who, at 56, is just six months older than Wane – is “immensely proud” to be asked by Wane to be involved with his country now, previous team manager Jamie Peacock having stood down following the end of the Wayne Bennett reign.

He said: “We speak at regular points but never did I expect the call from him. When he did ring me I thought he was joking and winding me up! But obviously it was a very pleasant conversation when I realised he was genuine.”

As a player, Maskill spent 10 years with Leeds, playing alongside legends such as Garry Schofield and Ellery Hanley, and was part of their last side to win the Yorkshire Cup in 1988.

He left in 1994 to spend a season with Doncaster when they were in the top flight but also played in the summer era having featured with Castleford Tigers in the first season of Super League two years later.

Wakefield-born Maskill also had a spell at Featherstone Rovers before returning to Doncaster where he retired in 1999.

He has had various coaching roles, including as an assistant at Castleford and also being in charge of Trinity’s reserves during Richard Agar’s time at Belle Vue but his main role of late has been as UK operations manager for sportswear firm ISC.

“I have practically 40 years experience in the game and working in different organisations like Cas’ and Wakefield,” said Maskill.

“And I did a similar role with America in the 2013 World Cup.

“When Terry Matterson was in charge of America and they came to the UK they came on a shoestring budget so effectively didn’t have any support staff.

“(Former Castleford coach) Terry asked me to help and they got through to the quarter-finals and played Australia in Swansea.

“From an off-the-field perspective, this is something I have plenty of experience of.”

Maskill is good friends with Australia legend Wally Lewis, the brilliant stand-off who spent a famous spell at Trinity in 1983-84.

Indeed, Maskill stayed with him when he went the other way and played with Lewis’s old club – Fortitude Valleys – inBrisbane.

Admittedly, it is still unclear whether the home Test series with Australia will go ahead due to the coronavirus but, if it does, will he have to reduce contact with the Kangaroos hero?

Maskill insisted: “I’m purely in on an administrative role!

“I’ll have nothing at all to do with team selection or coaching so no-one has to worry about that!

“Once the team goes into camp there’s a lot of administrative work to be done, like for UKAD, and you just need someone in house to make sure it runs right.

“I’ll be the bloke who spins the plates and makes sure every one of them keeps spinning, keeping close communications with the coaching staff plus the other support staff in the organisation.

“There’s work going on now on a weekly basis planning for the Test series. Until there’s a final decision, it’s in limbo but we’re still planning as if it’s going ahead.

“We’re provisionally planning hotels, training venues, itineraries of training schedules so, when we get the go-ahead, everyone is ready to roll.

“Through ISC, I’ve been involved with all the professional clubs in the UK for the last 10 years. Even though I was working at Cas’ and then Wakefield, I was still involved with ISC so I’ve still got daily contact with the clubs.

“ISC has been like a busman’s holiday for me – and this (England) is exciting.”

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