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St Helens name club legend Cunningham as new coach

Super League Grand Final winners St Helens, who are 7/2 with Coral to retain their crown next season, have appointed ex-player Keiron Cunningham as their new coach following the departure of Nathan Brown, who has returned to home country Australia, with Saints allowing him to leave a year early.

Cunningham is widely regarded by Saints supporters as a club legend, after scoring the final try at old ground Knowsley Road, a recognition that influenced the club to build a statue of the 37-year-old outside the ground.

The former Wales and Great Britain hooker joined the coaching staff at Saints following his retirement, and has showed good progress, helping to bring through a multitude of youngsters. He made his debut for the Cheshire-based outfit in 1994, going on to make 495 appearances for them.

Ex-player Cunningham was understandably delighted to accept the post at the club he spent his entire career. “When you finalise what’s going on and you agree your contract and everything’s done, it’s sort of not real,” he said in an interview on local radio.

“It’s almost like when your wife’s pregnant and you don’t see the baby, and the next thing is you sit in the press conference and the baby is there. I was never going to say no.

“It’s something that I always dreamed of doing. I started coaching and I was always adamant I was going to be head coach one day. It’s the proudest moment of my life. It’s up there with lifting the trophy for the town at Wembley, I’m so proud to do it.”

Long-serving club chairman, Eamonn McManus also recognised that Cunningham was ready to make the step up to head coach, saying: “Keiron is ready for this professionally and totally committed to the task ahead of him.

“He has been heavily involved in the success of this season and is ideally placed to carry it on for years to come,” McManus continued. “Not only does he understand our culture, he has been instrumental in its development since the inception of Super League.”

Cunningham’s first major task will be to mastermind a victory over Australian side South Sydney Rabbitohs, and will keep a keen eye on his contingent of players picked in the Four Nations, with England 13/2 to win the tournament.