Donlan thankful for Brown advice
Acting Castleford Tigers head coach Stuart Donlan is grateful for the assistance of Huddersfield Giants boss Nathan Brown as he prepares to take charge of his first Stobart Super League match.
The 31-year-old Donlan has been thrust into the top job at the Tigers with head coach Ian Millward on compassionate leave following the sudden death of his 19-year-old son Robbie last Sunday.
Donlan followed Millward from Leigh Centurions to Castleford in the close season after retiring as a player to take on his first coaching role as his assistant and admits he is facing a tough baptism against Wigan Warriors at the Probiz Coliseum on Sunday.
“Three months into my apprenticeship and I’m being thrown in at the deep end,” Donlan said. “Sometimes that’s the best way to learn.
“The conditioning and medical staff here have been brilliant and I spoke to Nathan Brown on Tuesday and he offered me his help.
“Obviously Huddersfield beat Wigan in round one and I’d like to put on record my thanks to Nathan for the bit of advice he has given me and his offer to ring him if I needed any more help.”
Donlan admits the Castleford players were in a state of shock after learning of the death of Robbie Millward from a heart attack while they were preparing to return from France following last Saturday’s match against Catalan Dragons.
Donlan, who knew Robbie personally since he came to this country with his father in 1999, said: “It’s hit everybody, none more so than Ian.
“Ian is the main concern. His family are flying in from Australia and I think that will be a great help to him.
“They’re arriving daily from around the world to support him. He just needs time to come to terms with the tragedy.
“Tuesday was a little bit sombre but the good thing about sport is that you’ve got a focus and, come Sunday, our focus will be Wigan.
“It’s been a very very tough week but we’re getting towards the serious end now and it’s a matter of getting the players to focus on the job in hand. I think we’re finally getting our heads around Sunday.”
A minute of applause and cheers will be held before kick-off on Sunday to remember Robbie at the request of Ian Millward and his family but Donlan says he has had no contact from his boss this week.
“The best thing we can do is give Ian space and time to grieve for Robbie,” he added.
“When he’s ready, he’ll speak to us and when he’s ready to come back into work we’ll welcome him back.
“At is stands at the minute, we’ll just get on the with the job and try to make his return as easy as possible.
“We’ve no idea when he’ll return. I think it would be wrong if he did come back early. He needs time to come to terms with the tragedy. You can’t imagine what it’s like to lose your 19-year-old son.”
Donlan, who has a degree in sports coaching, revealed Millward has already had an input into preparations for Sunday’s game and that the team will be playing for their grieving head coach.
“We do plan a little bit ahead of ourselves and we had already touched on the structure we’d like to play against Wigan,” said Donlan.
“Luckily in France on Sunday morning before we heard the news, we had discussed a few little things we were going to do against Wigan and, speaking to Nathan, confirmed what we had in mind.
“Everybody is mucking in. I said to the players on Tuesday in a meeting the best way they can help me is out on the training field and on Sunday put in a great performance for Ian.
“We can show Ian our support. We’re looking at putting on a really good performance to show Ian that we’re there for him.”