JUSTIN Holbrook announced he was leaving the club yesterday, the Star's Mike Critchley caught up with him to get the reason behind his decision and ask where the club is now, compared to when he took over.

MC: Is that a weight off your shoulders?

JH: It was a really tough decision for me and an awkward one, but I actually didn’t know until Monday. People seem to think I have known for a while, but I was told over the weekend to make a decision.

St Helens Star:

MC: Is this a decision that has been playing on your mind?

JH: I spoke to the Gold Coast last week and they told me they’d make a decision over the weekend and let me know Monday and that was the truth and the funny thing is when I found out myself on Monday everyone else found out as well.

I said to my wife – and it’s hard because we’re all happy here and she was happy either way and I just said look I think if they offer it to me I have to take it because it’s what I do want to do.

In the end it came down to do I want to coach in the NRL – and I do – so have to make my decision that way. Unfortunately for me it’s only when we’re going well that I’m going to get the opportunity to go. So I have to leave when everything’s going well otherwise you don’t get the opportunity. So that’s the hardest thing – leave when things are going fantastic.

I love everything about it here – the club, the players, the staff, town and people. They say why leave then, but the only answer is I do want to coach in the NRL.

St Helens Star:

MC: Is leaving this team – one on the cusp of doing great things – the biggest wrench?

JH: It will be tough leaving but I will know that we are leaving them in a good spot. We are keeping the whole playing group, apart from Swifty who is going to Hull.

For me it is definitely hard to leave because I know how good a staff and playing group we have here, but at least I know I am not leaving them in a bad spot. Hopefully we have got some big games ahead this year – and if we get the joy the players deserve then I will feel content that I have played my part in what we are doing here.

MC: You will be judged in October – at the end of the season - but there has been a transformation in your time here across the board.

JH: I am proud with how we are going as a club and how I have played a part in that, but it is a difficult one because we want to win the big trophies ahead of us.

But at least we have given ourselves the opportunity – and by winning the semi we have got that opportunity in the Challenge Cup. And where we are sitting in the table gives us a great position to win Super League. We are in a great spot and that is something I am proud of.

St Helens Star:

MC: How did the players respond when you told them?

JH: I felt awful because everyone is on a massive high because of Wembley and I am throwing in a dampener because I am going.

But I would rather that – because we can push that aside because we do have Wembley. I didn’t get to tell them until Wednesday morning I didn’t want to get the players in yesterday as it was their day off and the last thing I wanted to do was say ‘everybody come in to training, oh and by the way I’m going’ because it’s not a good thing.

MC: If the club had tied you down in May and put the deal in front of you and told you to sign, would that have forced you to make an earlier call and stay?

JH: I was not comfortable signing then because of the reason I outlined. I have always wanted to coach NRL and I have had had a few near opportunities in the past an they didn't come off because I have not been in a position to take them.

The club did everything they could to keep me. Rushy and Eamonn played a big part in wanting me to sign and I could not have asked for anything more.

But I did have that fire burning for coaching in the NRL and that is what it comes down to. Everything else is fine - but that is what makes it hard. But that is what I have done.

MC: Your successor has a nice platform to continue off.

JH: The playing squad is as a good as we have got and playing really well. They are in a good position this year and will be again next year so that is what makes me feel better. It is not like there are seven or eight players leaving at the end of the year and I have jumped ship.

The club is in a great spot.

Read: Part two of Justin Holbrook's Q&A>>