New Saints Coach Potter Outlines His Initial Plans

New St Helens coach Mick Potter brought with him a simple theory when he walked through the door at Knowsley Road - if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

The 45-year-old former St George full-back was Saints' first choice to succeed fellow Australian Daniel Anderson, who won nine major trophies in his three-and-a-half years at the helm before returning home for family reasons in October.

If the formula worked for Anderson, there is no reason why it cannot do the same for Potter, who is the reigning Super League coach of the year after guiding Catalans Dragons to a third-place finish in 2008.

"It's been a very smooth transition for me," he says.

"When you've got a team that has made the Grand Final two years in a row and won the Challenge Cup three years in a row, you're not going to throw out what has been successful.

"There are a lot of right things happening here and I'm not going to change all that just for change's sake.

"There's a good system in place. It's a club that loves the success but also enjoys the hard work."

Potter inherits a squad that has been bolstered by just one signing in the last two years - former New Zealand Test forward Tony Puletua is set to make his debut against Warrington on February 13 - but he is happy to continue the club's flourishing youth policy.

"Staffing-wise, they're pretty well set and player-wise, they have a recruitment policy of bringing in young players and moving them up quickly," he says.

"Rugby league-wise that's better for us. There hasn't had to be a massive player change and it's probably just age and the salary cap that will create any more changes.

"Structurally, there will probably just be subtle call changes, that's about all."

The St Helens directors, who bit off more than they could chew with Anderson's predecessor Ian Millward, clearly played it safe with their latest appointment.

But the softly-spoken Potter will be no soft touch and, as a strict disciplinarian, insists that big reputations will count for little if a player steps out of line.

"I understand the expectation but I'm not concerned or worried about it," he said.

"My focus is not so much on filling someone else's boots but more on doing what I do well, which is getting people to be accountable for what they do.

"I will talk on a level the players understand, without talking down to them. I will empathise with the player but still be demanding, while technically I do like to focus on some fundamentals.

"My other strength would be discipline. I'm pretty demanding and, if people step out of line, they won't last too long here.

"As far as I'm concerned, they will be ostracised or isolated. At Catalans 12 players had to move after the first year for one reason or another."

Potter, who cut his coaching teeth on the backroom staff at Bradford in 1996, arrived in Perpignan from Sydney three years ago as a virtual unknown but his reputation soared after he guided the Catalans to the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 2007 and a first appearance in the play-offs 12 months later.

His success was noted by several big clubs back in Australia looking for new coaches and Potter has not given up hope of landing a head coaching position in the National Rugby League.

But that is for the future. He has signed a two-year deal with St Helens and, with a grown-up family, is in no rush to return home.

"Australia is ultimately your home and eventually I'd like to get back there but, at this stage in my life, my work is pretty important to me," he says.

"It's fantastic to be involved in sport and there are not too many full-time jobs in rugby league. It's a small industry we work in and you take what's on offer and appreciate it."

Not that the prospect of staying in the south of France was without its attractions. The Catalans were keen for Potter to extend his contract a second time and he admits it was an agonising decision to leave.

"Perpignan is a very nice place to be and the people are very nice," he says.

"You build relationships and invest a lot of time and energy into trying to help the club. It was a big decision to leave the organisation."

After being on an upward curve for three years with the Dragons, Potter is perhaps taking a risk by joining a club for whom the only way is down after finishing top of the table in all four seasons under Anderson.

"That's for someone else to pass an opinion," he said.

"For me, it's about focusing on the small things, rather than finishing top of the table.

"That will sort itself out. If I worry about that, I lose focus on what is important and that's performance week to week."

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