Having taken the Rhinos to at least one final per season and led Leeds for 265 games since taking over in 2011, Andrew Riley asks if it was just a season too far for the former Royal Marine.
A couple of seasons ago, Leeds were beaten by Salford Devils, and in the press conference, I asked Brian McDermott if he felt his job was secure and if he felt that he had done all he could with the club.
He answered with his usual honesty and clarity that he still felt he was the right man for the job and he felt they could still make it to the Grand Final.
As it was, that season they went on to win the Challenge cup that year, failing to make the grand final, but still collecting silverware.
As I picked up my recorder, Brian looked at me and with an all too rare public smile, said “Tossed a few grenades in there, didn’t you?”
It was the first time I’d seen a slight crack in his usual taciturn public exterior.
Other writers who had more interaction with the man will tell you of his wit and how he was always approachable, and for my part I always found him to be open and honest.
Leeds are a club that has become unaccustomed during the summer era to losing. That Brian took charge for over 250 matches, shows just how successful the club had become under both his and Gary Hetherington’s combined leadership.
Just watch the documentary on Amazon Prime, “As Good As It Gets” to see the sort of loyalty McDermott inspired amongst his players. Even a non sporting person cannot fail to see just how he inspired players to achieve more than they felt they could.
Yes, this season Leeds have been beset by a virtually unprecedented injury list, but then don’t all clubs have to contend with injury problems?
His record speaks for itself.
265 games, 162 wins and 97 losses.
An impressive record in any sport, but sadly, this season, having lost another pair of talismanic players in Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire his team have failed to edge out tight games, and losing 7 in a row was just too much this time for Mr Hetherington.
Given the mooted changes for the 2019 season (Nobody actually knows what the league structure will look like yet, which is a travesty for a professional sport) Leeds were worried about being dragged into a possible relegation fight, with a number of Championship clubs determined to secure Super League status, the chance was too great and so Brian had to go.
This was a man whose silverware record reads:
Four Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, a League Leaders’ Shield and a World Club Challenge.
Chief executive Gary Hetherington said the club would “forever be indebted” to McDermott.
“The club’s most successful coach has also helped to forge a rugby operation with toughness, resilience and a strong desire to succeed, which his successor will inherit,” said Hetherington.
“Eight years is a long time for any head coach at the same club and we have enjoyed much success and endured some difficult times along the way when tough decisions had to be made.
“We have always come through strongly but I do believe our present predicament requires change and that this is the right call for the club.
“Brian is a man of the utmost integrity and passion for rugby league. He has so much to offer the sport and I have no doubt he will go on to achieve more success in the future.”
For his part, McDermott had this to say:
“Obviously it is not a decision I agree with,” said McDermott.
“I am extremely disappointed this has happened. I wish everyone at the club the best and my thoughts will be with the team on Sunday and through to the end of the season.”