Super League: Why Francis Cummins is thrilled to reunite with old Leeds Rhinos buddy Willie Poching at Wakefield Trinity
Cummins, 45, had not worked in the sport since a short spell as head coach at Widnes Vikings - financially troubled just like Bradford - ended in 2018.
After that, he crossed codes again, having previously worked at Yorkshire Carnegie, and had a second stint as backs coach at Championship club Doncaster Knights.
However, the Yorkshireman left Castle Park when the pandemic brought an early close to the 2019-20 season and so had not coached a professional team for 18 months.
Nevertheless, when Poching earned the Trinity head coach role in September having won five of his seven games in charge as caretaker coach last season, he knew where to go for his assistant.
Cummins played alongside the Kiwi for four seasons at Rhinos and they also started their coaching careers together as assistants at Headingley.
Asked about how he is enjoying being back coaching, Cummins admitted: “It has been good.
“Being in rugby union and then obviously seeing the world stop turning for a while with Covid, you do feel a little bit on the outside.
“But it was really nice to get the call from Willie when he got the nod and asked me if I wanted to get back involved.
“It was a no-brainer really.”
However, the ex-Great Britain winger, who scored 188 tries in 356 games for Leeds, admitted he did wonder if he would ever get a role in Super League again.
“With the lockdown as well, things just weren’t moving; it wasn’t turning as it did,” he recalled. Of course, you do think that … I didn’t stop coaching. Whatever I did, whether coaching kids or my rugby school, that’s what I do: I’m a coach.
“But especially when names get linked with jobs who haven’t got as much experience as me or whatever, you do start thinking to yourself that maybe I am not going to get another chance here.
“So it was nice to get that call.
“Me and Willie have always spoken and we worked together a lot at Leeds. We were there together for 10 years. When we’ve not been working together we’ve always caught up and counselled each other at times so it was nice when he gave me the call.”
Having been an assistant at Leeds, Warrington Wolves, Salford Red Devils, Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR and Wakefield, the 48-year-old Poching has certainly earned the opportunity to make his own mark after replacing Chris Chester.
“He does deserve it,” added Cummins, who left Headingley at the end of 2010 to become Bulls assistant, the same time as Poching moved to Warrington.
“Willie has put the hard yards in as well with the traveling and where he’s been and - some of the jobs he’s had to do at some places - it was great that he got this opportunity here.
“I was over the moon when he got the results last season and then finally got the job.”
With Trinity deep into pre-season training, Dewsbury-born Cummins has managed to learn plenty about the squad at their disposal for 2022 when the West Yorkshire club bid to be firing in the top half of Super League rather than looking over their shoulders worrying about relegation again. He said: “My first impressions are really good.
“They were able to blood some young lads last season and it’ll be really great to see those lads now take their next step.
“That’s the great thing about the Boxing Day fixture against Leeds]. We’ll get to see them.
“A few of them got a fair few appearances last season but now they are looking really good in training and maturing.
“At the top end, Wakefield have a lot of speed in the squad, which is a huge asset to have, but they have some good young forwards as well.
“They have a good balance with some of the more experienced players.
“When those young lads start to contribute and they start pushing those older fellas, there’s competition whereas it looked like last year maybe there was a settled team for a while.
“These young lads are now pushing them on and Willie has been quite open with them that they have a good chance to push on and maybe get in front of some players.”