Simon Grix era at Halifax Panthers ends in ‘frustrating’ and ‘disappointing’ fashion after Swinton Lions prevent play-off spot
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It had all the makings of a party atmosphere at The Shay, with Fax knowing that a win against their lowly opponents would seal a top six place. Instead, it was the Swinton fans and players left celebrating a 22-12 victory which had huge significance at the bottom end of the table - it ensured the Lions’ survival in the Championship after a tight relegation.
Asked how he felt about bowing out as head coach before the 2023 play-off stages, Grix said:
“Pretty flat and gutted to be honest. Knowing it was in our hands, that’s the bit that makes it a little bit more like a kick in the gut. It has been an up and down year. I’ve always said you end up getting what you deserve and today we dished up a good example of a summary of our season; good for parts but just not doing it for long enough. Whether that’s a concentration thing, I am not 100 per cent sure.
“We got what we deserved. Swinton were great. Gibson (Jordan), their half, kicked us around nice, and just ushered play around and played smarter than us and played with a lot more desire. When the game was in the balance they were the ones poking through and making those desperate attempts that we weren’t able to.
“I thought we started quite brightly but we could have been there another 30 minutes at the end and we still may not have got over. We looked disjointed, like we hadn’t played together that much. It didn’t really resemble the plan that much at times. There were some good stuff in there, Salty (James Saltonstall) never says die, Zack (McComb) was great. They are trying their best but I thought our spine just didn’t have an impact on the game.”
He added: “We spoke about our reason for prolonging our season and how it was greater than theirs, about getting desperate about getting that extra week. I’m frustrated and disappointed with the finish because we are better than what we have shown on a number of occasions this year.
“There are loads of reasons in and amongst but I thought that today we certainly had enough quality on the field to shut that game out. But the boys could have been there for another half an hour, it just didn’t go for us at all. Again, credit to Swinton, I thought they were great.”
Grix pointed to losing Joe Keyes for a large spell of the season as one of the key reasons as to why Fax were not able to make the play-offs.
“Losing Keyesy was a big thing,” he said. “In the end, we lost too many close games where I think having Joe in our side, and not having to experiment with Kyle Wood, Tom Inman and Woody, we’d have pulled more games out and we wouldn’t have been in this final day drama we find ourselves in.
“If we’d have got in the play-offs it would have been great. But it’s gone, it’s not to be. It’s not the end of the world. This club is in good hands.”
Grix will be replaced by his former assistant Liam Finn, who will be leaving his role Dewsbury Rams’ head coach next month having guided them back to the Championship after winning the League 1 title.
Asked if he believes he has left the club in a good position, Grix replied:
“Yeah definitely, I think we have. We are not far off that ceiling for a part-time Championship team without a significant backer. This club is very hard to run. It has got the same struggles that every other Championship side has but we don’t have that one millionaire or lottery winner that can push us onto that next step.
“I have exhausted myself and the team has worked really hard and we have got into that position where we should be a guaranteed top six team every year. I am sure they will bounce back next year and jump up in there but there’s a gulf between Featherstone, Toulouse, Sheffield; teams just seem to find that support and we haven’t got it. We have done the best with what we have got.
“The club has been great for me. It’s been a really good learning curve and I wouldn’t change any of it. There is a lot of expectation around the club and rightly so, to a degree. But when you put the expectation on paper, it doesn’t match up to reality and that will always be a problem.”