DONCASTER Knights just missed out on a place in the semi-final of Championship Promotion play-offs at Castle Park on Saturday.
Their 27-24 defeat at home to unbeaten leaders Cornish Pirates in their must-win Pool B game, brought the curtain down on Lynn Howells’ four-year spell in charge.
“To go so close to reaching the Promotion play-off’s was frustrating,” said the Welshman.
“It would have been good to have gone to Worcester and given the boys a shot at getting through to the final.
“A lot of people don’t like the play-offs, but I think they are a good idea. The best thing that they’ve done this season - albeit that it cost us a semi-final spot - is rewarding clubs for league positions.
“I think it is important because if you do well in the league then you should get some reward.”
Looking back on his time at the club, Howells said:
“Obviously there have been highs and lows - that’s par for the course in sport, but I think the big thing has been the support of everybody at the club right from the board down to the groundsman and the supporters.
“John Lowe, in particular, was a great help on the legal side and the rules and regulations and anything I needed doing he was always there.
“And Paul Turton did a great job as team manager. The organisation and the way that he handled everything was absolutely superb.
“It’s sad to be leaving; it always is when you’ve made friends and put building blocks in place.
“But it is the right decision for the club and it is the right decision for me as well.
“After four years, the club it needs a new voice and it needs new ideas.
“I’ve made a lot of friends, not only in rugby but outside of rugby in Doncaster and I appreciate that.
“When you first come to a club and have to start to build up a relationship with everybody, it can be difficult.
“But it was very easy at Doncaster; people are very friendly.
“It has certainly proved to be a good club to be involved with and I wish them all the best for the future.
I’m sure that Brett (Davey) will take it on and take it forward.
“I brought him here two years ago as my No 2 to do that.
“It is a very steep learning curve from being a coach to a director of rugby and he’ll learn from everyone around him in his first year. You can’t prepare people for it; they have to experience it.
“But Brett will be fine. He’ll certainly bring a very good rugby knowledge. I don’t think that the actual coaching and the rugby will be a problem. The biggest thing will be the actual learning of being a director of rugby and that takes time.
“I’ll always be on the end of a phone if he wants to have a chat about anything next season.”
Howells is planning to stay in the game.
“There have been a couple of offers starting to come in now,” he said. “Obviously it all depends on interviews and everything else, but at least there are things out there now starting to come in.
“I’ve got an open mind. Obviously I’d like to coach at the highest level I can - not least because it will tax me as well.
“If something cropped up at another Championship club I’d be happy to look at it.
“My remit now is a little bit different. I’m not the same as Brett in terms of trying to push myself on.
“I’ve done international rugby, I’ve coached international teams and I’ve coached at various levels.
So for me it is about going to a club, as I did at Doncaster, and putting things in place to take it forward and taking players and coaches forward. As long as I can do that I’ll be happy.”
Howells says that he will continue to take an interest in the club’s affairs and doesn’t rule out the possibility of them playing Premiership rugby in the next few years.
“I don’t think that the club is ready at the moment,” he said.
“Had they got into the Premiership there would have been a massive turnaround of players.
“The big thing about going into the Premiership for Doncaster is money. There is no other reason why they can’t go up.
“They have the infrastucture in place - they could put up a temporary stand along the terrace and that would get them up a a level they would need to be at.
“So it is not facilities, it is purely down to finance.
“When I first came to the club I was asked what it would take to get to the Premiership and I said probably £5m and I still stick by that - £4m of that would go on players’ contracts
“I think the town needs success and if any team in Doncaster got success you’d see people waking up and starting to take notice.”
Howells isn’t the only familiar face leaving the club - at least five top players will depart for pasture new.
“I think it is the nature of the beast and every club goes through it,” said Howells.
“Because of financial restraints you can’t sign players for more than a season and as such there is always a chance that you will lose a player if he shows that he is capable of moving on and playing at a higher level.
“We’ve got players like Dan Frazer going to Newcastle and Michael Cusack moving to Glasgow - both bigger clubs playing at a higher level and until Doncaster is really ready to push for the Premiership, that is what will happen.”