This morning saw the wishes of many Leeds Rhinos fans granted as the axe fell on Brian McDermott – Super League’s most successful coach – following seven consecutive defeats in the top tier.
With the club sitting eighth in Super League and, as such, occupying the final spot to certainly remain in the competition before the league split, chief executive Gary Hetherington has seen fit to release Leeds’ longest serving coach after eight years at the helm. “I do believe our present predicament requires change and that this is the right call for the club,” Hetherington said of the decision. As the club battle to avoid dropping into The Qualifiers for the second time in three seasons, the reigning champions now face a trip to Castleford on Sunday with – at the time of writing – no public indication as to who will be taking charge of the team.
The timing of the decision to dispense of the 48-year-old will be of shock to some who would have believed that relieving him of his service at the end of the season would have made more sense. Indeed, that would have given him a send off that he arguably deserves, much like Arsene Wenger of Arsenal, but would it have been with the best interests of the club at heart? At this moment in time, Leeds seem to have forgotten how to win rugby league matches and there is little indication that that trait is set to leave the club. Indeed, in recent weeks the Rhinos found themselves ahead of both St Helens – in arguably Leeds’ best performance this season – and Catalans with less than ten minutes remaining of the match before going onto lose both. With that in mind, and with vital matches against Wakefield, Salford and Widnes – three matches which hold the key to Leeds’ hopes of remaining in the top eight – perhaps it is the decision that was needed.
Nevertheless, McDermott’s statement following the news indicated his belief on his axing. “I am extremely disappointed this has happened and obviously it is not a decision I agree with,” he expressed before wishing the club well for the remaining part of the season. His record in charge of the club is an impressive one; four Super Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, a League Leaders’ Shield and a World Club Challenge victory and in each of his seasons in charge, the Rhinos featured in at least one final. However, the club’s last Super League victory came in the form of a 20-18 victory at Hull KR in late April – something which is simply unacceptable for a club who would have been keen to retain their Super League title. McDermott certainly must be praised for the integrity he has shown throughout his time in the role and it should also be noted that he has presided over a time where the club has seen five of it’s biggest players from its’ ‘golden generation’ in recent years – Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock, Kylie Lealuai (all 2015), Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire (both 2017) –
Now, however, is the time for a new coach to come in and steer the new crop of youngsters coming into the squad. The nucleus for a very strong future for the club is there with the likes of Jack Walker, Cameron Smith and Mikolaj Oledski having become regulars in 2018 while Harry Newman has also been introduced to the fold in recent weeks. What is needs now is a new coach with new ideas now to mould the team into a successful one for years to come – a proposition which, such is the history, resources and reputation of the club, would be of interest to a great many coaches.