Dave Fleming's Blast from the Past

7th June 2017, 08:30

Dave Fleming's Blast from the Past

Actor Michael Caine is apparently fond of saying “not many people know that.”

And in rugby league there always appears to be a connection. For example, who of the Halifax fans watching the recent “Summer Bash” was aware that Toulouse’s Mark Kheirallah is the nephew of former Fax coach Steve Linnane?

Kheirallah actually played the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs in the Newcastle Rugby League in 2013 and starred in their Grand Final loss to the Western Suburbs Rosellas before returning to Toulouse. Linnane coached that team and also connected to the club were his brother Daniel and cousin Jason.

Talk about Halifax connections though.

Linnane certainly had the pedigree as a player, making 118 NSWRL appearances for St George and Newcastle Knights and won the Dally M Rookie of the Year award in 1985, when he was the competition's leading try-scorer.

In that year he also played five-eighth in the Dragons' 7-6 grand final loss to Canterbury.

Playing in the game for the Bulldogs was Michael Hagan and the two of them later formed the halfback partnership for the Knights.

Linnane retired in 1996 and became Knights reserve-grade coach under Malcolm Reilly.

The next career move was to Rochdale as coach in 2000. Ian Millward’s success with Leigh had made recruiting assistants from the NRL fashionable and Linnane had a good spell at Spotland before becoming Gary Mercer’s assistant in the summer of 2000 when he replaced Martin Hall in the role.

Linnane had obviously seen a lot of Northern Ford Premiership rugby whilst at Hornets and in those days their season didn’t run parallel with Super League, beginning on Boxing Day and ending in July.

He believed that there were plenty of players in the lower division who could make the step-up and recommended the likes of Barry Eaton, Paul Anderson and Matt Calland. The two that he paid most attention to recruiting, with different results, were Micky Higham and Stuart Donlan and he also signed Jason Lee from Keighley after taking over from Mercer.

Linnane was also an assiduous networker and it was perhaps no surprise that he took over as coach following Mercer’s resignation in March 2001.

He looked to be making a reasonable fist of and the board allowed him to sign the likes of Robbie Beckett, David Woods and Colum Halpenny before giving him a contract extension in the spring of 2002 after a narrow defeat to St Helens.

Unfortunately it started to go pear shaped after that for Linnane. There were plenty of stories that he had “lost the dressing room” and that the players had polarised into the sizeable Australian contingent and the English players.

Fax lost nine out ten games before he was removed in a sudden coup by the club’s advisory group over the August Bank Holiday to be replaced by Tony Anderson.

His last match in charge was a dispiriting 64-0 defeat at St Helens.