Former Super League star Sean Long begins his quest to lead Featherstone Rovers into the top flight when their Betfred Championship campaign kicks off at newly promoted Keighley Cougars on Monday.
The 46-year-old, who won four league titles and five Challenge Cups during a headline-grabbing playing career with St Helens, says he is unfazed by the expectations that come with his first head coaching role.
Rovers, who lost Million Pound Games to Toronto and Toulouse in 2019 and 2021 respectively and were stunned by Batley in last season’s semi-finals, start as hefty favourites this time round after a number of top-quality additions.
Chris Hankinson and Elijah Taylor both joined having featured in Super League last year while Caleb Aekins switched after helping last year’s champions Leigh clinch promotion.
But Long insisted: “Pressure doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t feel any pressure, I never did when I played and I don’t now I’m a coach.
“I think we’ve made some shrewd signings this season and added to a very good squad. As long as I do my job and the players buy into what we’re doing, it’ll look after itself.”
Long, who previously held assistant coach roles at both Leeds and St Helens, jumped at the chance to take his first main role following the departure of Brian McDermott in the wake of last season’s disappointment.
“I think I’ve been ready for it for around three years but I never took that step,” said Long.
“I was on holiday with my missus when the club rang me up and I bit their hand off, because it’s a great club with great fans and a great community.
“When you’re an assistant coach you just do your video and present it to the lads, but now I’m dealing with 28 players plus staff, and at first it was a little bit overwhelming.
“But now I’m a lot more comfortable dealing with it. We’ve tapped into our DNA and what we are as a team and a club and a town. We’re hard-working grafters who love their rugby, and that’s what we are going to pride ourselves on this year.”