York City Knights are reaping the benefit of the simple philosophy of new coach Dave Woods as he candidly outlines to The Press Knights reporter PETER MARTINI.

IT might be a simple value, but being open and honest with players and supporters forms the core of Dave Woods’ philosophy in rugby league.

It is an attitude which has served him well throughout his coaching career, be it in junior rugby league back home in Australia or in his previous top jobs in England, and it is one he hopes will work again at York City Knights.

So far, it’s looking good. The Knights have won four Championship One matches and lost only two – at champions-elect Hunslet and at home to second-placed Oldham – since the 45-year-old, who first came to Huntington Stadium in April as director of rugby, replaced the sacked James Ratcliffe as head coach.

Asked what his coaching philosophy was, he didn’t delve into technicalities, systems or playing styles, even though he clearly knows his stuff. He simply said if players were happy, they played better.

“I try to be open and honest with the players,” he said. “They get feedback, good or bad, on what they’ve done right and wrong and on what they need to do.

“I like to make sure they can approach me at any time. If I can help in any way I will, whether it’s about things on the field or off the field.

“I think it’s important the players are happy, that they’re training right and doing the right things. That way you get the best out of them as people and when they play.”

Woods first got into rugby league through his dad. He was a ball boy aged three for his dad’s team, Enfield Federals, and started playing under-6s rugby aged four.

It went on from there, with junior honours for St George, and later captaincy roles for their Jersey Flegg and under-23s sides, and reserve-grade appearances for Penrith and Parramatta.

However, his playing career remained largely in the third tier of Australian rugby league, breaking into reserve-grade (second tier) at times.

And the fact he never pushed himself to make NRL first-grade is a big regret, and something he tells his players now – displaying that brand of openness and honesty.

“I regret that I didn’t give it a shot,” he said. “I played with the likes of Graeme Bradley (ex-Illawarra, Penrith, St George, Castleford and Bradford), Chris Johns (ex-St George, Brisbane, Castleford and Australia) and Jeff Hardey (ex-Illawarra, St George, Sheffield, Castleford and Huddersfield) and other blokes who played NRL or Super League.

“I was captain of the team, so could I have gone on to do it as well? I’ll never know as I chose to play with my mates.

“I give that advice to young blokes now – don’t have that regret. If you don’t make it, you don’t make it, but not going for it is something I regret.”

That he got into coaching, however, is not a regret.

He began in junior rugby league – because “his mates needed a coach one year” – and soon led Greystones to the U17s ‘C’-grade premiership in Parramatta.

He was also captain and coach of a team called Merrylands, who played in the top tier of the Parramatta competition, and he won that premiership too before being asked to join Penrith Panthers’ backroom team as a development coach.

That’s where he met Mick Potter, the current St Helens boss and still a friend in and away from the game.

He coached Luke Lewis (Penrith and Australia), Frank Pritchard (Penrith and New Zealand), Steve Turner (ex-Penrith and Melbourne and now at Canterbury) and many others who went on to become big stars in the NRL.

And it was through this job that he first came to England, leading the Penrith Panthers U18s on a successful six-match tour in 2001.

He coached Penrith sides in the New South Wales-based Harold Matthews Cup (U16s) and the Jersey Flegg (U19s/U20s) and also New South Wales representative sides – continuing to build a CV in junior rugby league which finally helped him to break through into the first-grade arena – back in England, with Castleford.

“I’d been pestering Richard Wright (Cas chief executive) to give me a job,” he recalled.

“I just wanted an opportunity to coach at a higher level. It’s hard in Australia to get a top job and I had some good friends here (in England). I wanted a change and this was a good opportunity.”

That came ahead of the 2005 season, a debut year in England in which Woods led Cas to the National League One (Championship) title and promotion to Super League, following relegation the previous year.

However, that triumph effectively cost Woods his job as the Tigers wanted a higher profile Super League coach.

“It was a great year,” he said. “It was hard at the start as they were all new players from different levels, and not a team that had played together before. I had to make some big decisions about some players but it proved to be a really good season.

“I was disappointed with how it ended. I was told I’d have a job if we did well and I would’ve been happy to be an assistant in Super League, and I would’ve loved the chance to be head coach there.

“That remains an aim for me – to coach in Super League.”

Further success and disappointment followed at Gateshead – as previously detailed in The Press, Woods led the North East minnows from wooden spoon contenders to Championship One champions in his second season in charge, winning the NL2 Coach of the Year award to boot, only to be sacked in acrimonious circumstances straight after.

Those frustrations aside, Woods says he “loves it” in England.

“It’s a great place to be – I don’t even mind the weather,” he said. “The rugby league is improving over here as well. It’s harder here. In Australia, all the kids are out after school playing or having ‘Test matches’ on the street. You don’t have that here. In fact the police in Cas said the kids can’t play with a ball in the street. How stupid is that?”

As for York – he recently moved to the city to take over running the Fox & Hounds pub in Copmanthorpe – he said: “It’s a beautiful place.

“The club are learning as well. They’re taking on board a few things I’ve suggested and the players have really stepped up.

“We’ve only lost two matches since I’ve been in charge. There are some good young kids coming through as well so hopefully things will go well.”