Rochdale News | Sports News | Rochdale Hornets appoint Gary Thornton head coach for 2023



Date published: September 14, 2022


Rochdale Hornets have announced that Gary Thornton has been named the club’s head coach for the 2023 season.

Thornton, who joined the Hornets as an assistant coach in December, has been in charge of the club on an interim basis since Matt Calland left the first week of August.

The former Batley Bulldogs and York City Knights manager has now been offered the role on a permanent basis – after impressive performances.

The most recent of these came on Sunday, when Rochdale beat fierce rivals Oldham 38-24 to progress to the 2022 League One semi-final playoffs.

During Thornton’s time at the club, his side also broke the club record for most points scored in a league game.

The 102-4 thrashing of the West Wales Raiders, which the Hornets ran into from 19 tries, was also a record winning margin for the club.

Even when the former Championship and Ligue 1 Coach of the Year saw his team lose, there are still positives to be taken.

When the Hornets traveled to Colwyn Bay to take on second-placed North Wales Crusaders, Thornton had just 17 players available but saw his side score more tries than the hosts – in a narrow 28-24 loss.

Two weeks later, when unbeaten League One champions Keighley came to the Crown Oil Arena, he had just 14 men to call on.

And while Keighley would finish his season undefeated, Rochdale’s 24 points that day were the most of any team against the Cougars all season – an outstanding achievement with only one player on the bench.

Speaking for the first time since his appointment, Thornton said: “I would like to thank Andy [Mazey] and Steve [Kerr] for giving me the opportunity to lead the club until the 2023 season. When I originally arrived, to help Matt [Calland]I had no intention of returning to the role of head coach and was just happy to be back doing what I love – coaching rugby league.

“But obviously things changed with the unfortunate departure of Matt – for whom I have the greatest respect as a capable and technically astute rugby league coach – and when I was asked to take over Until the end of this season I accepted as I thought it would give the guys some stability.

“Since then I have really enjoyed my time and had a fantastic response and support from players and fans which has fueled my decision to continue in 2023.

“We still have a lot to play for this season as we enter the final stages of the play-offs. But, whatever happens, I am already planning next season and it will be another difficult year, but one that we should look forward to with optimism. .

“I’m working hard to build a competitive squad that will give everything on the pitch for this famous club.”

Having also coached at Doncaster and Hunslet, Thornton brings a wealth of experience to the role and Hornets chairman Andy Mazey is delighted to have secured his long-term services.

He said: “We are delighted to announce Gary as our new head coach as he is a manager of unquestionable caliber and experience, with proven success in the Championship and Ligue 1. .

“When Gary agreed to take on the role on an interim basis in early August, we identified areas that needed improvement. During his short tenure, we are pleased with the progress that has been made.

“What was very evident was that he is extremely positive and professional in his approach and a great communicator and man-manager, key skills not only in the modern game but in the modern world.

“Gary fully understands the position of the club and that of the sport at large at this time as we await proposals from IMG’s strategic partners, which will hopefully give a clearer indication of the direction for clubs to follow. at our level.

“We must now all be behind him, our staff and the team vehemently as we look forward to Saturday’s elimination semi-final in North Wales.”