Leeds Rhinos fire Brian McDermott. Good move, Bad Move?

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.”

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Whats your State of Mind?

As the State of Mind charity prepares to take over the Super League for an entire round, Andrew Riley went along to the AJ Bell stadium in Salford to see what the charity does and how you can be part of a world record attempt this coming Wednesday…

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How do you promote a sport full of power and passion?

By not bothering to show any of the sport itself according to the new RFL Super League 2018 launch video.

Recently, the RFL marketing department have managed to get a couple of things spot on. The new OuRLeague app is fantastic. Superb content, really engaging and easy to use. During the World Cup it became the go to app for info on England and what the players were up to.

Then we get the 2018 launch video…

We know that professional rugby league players are supremely fit. We also know that the Brownlee brothers are superb athletes as well.

What we dont see is any reason for watching the sport when the season starts in just over a week.

Where are the big hits, the jinking runs through defences, the offloads and the magic? Apparently, the public dont need to see the skill of the players, but images of them running up and down in the snow tell you all you need to know about the lack of imagination shown by the RFL marketing department.

The RFL have some superb staff, but marketing needs a shake up.

Why advertise along the M62?

You’re playing into the hands of those who look down their noses at the sport and call it parochial!

Advertise along the M6 and the M1. It’s a summer sport, entice people heading to Bridlington, Scarborough, Blackpool and the Lake district to take in a game, not those who already know where games are played.

What does this video tell anyone who accidentally happens upon it about the game these athletes play?

Nothing…

I appreciate that there is an air of change at Red Hall and Media City with Nigel Wood leaving, but if we allow the game to continue to stagnate at every level, which is what we are in danger of doing if we don’t look for a candidate for his position from outside of the sport, we are in danger of the sport as a whole dying.

Thats not just my view, but one given to me by one of the most respected writers on the sport. As it was a private conversation, I’m not going to name him here, but it shows just how far those who write about the sport feel the game and it’s leadership have sunk.

Indeed, he felt that by the time of the 2025 World Cup, the UK version of the game may well be entirely amateur.

Roar on the England team to victory on Saturday

As good as it was to watch the Union boys win a World Cup in Australia back in 2003, to see the League team do it in 2017 would be an even bigger feat of sporting prowess.

Sadly, most of the mainstream media have ignored Rugby League for so long, its not a shock if you haven’t heard about a World Cup taking place in Australia.

There are plenty out there, ready to belittle the achievement of a team making it to a World Cup final, but look beyond the doubters, and see just how hard these players play the game, how tough they have to be, mentally and physically, just to make it in a sport where, sadly, a lot of players get by on part time wages, and only the very best get paid the big bucks.
Come Saturday, when the two teams take the field, every single player will have the weight of history on his shoulders.
It’s been 22 years since we last took to the field in a World Cup final, and 45 years since we last won it, and back then, we were Great Britain.
I’m no old romantic, I understand that beating one of the finest International teams, coached by one of the all time greatest players EVER to grace a pitch will be no easy feat, but I do believe this England team, if they play for a full 80 minutes, are more than capable of beating anyone.
It’s the playing for the full 80 minutes that has me worried.
During this tournament, they have too often switched off when seemingly in the box seat, and were very lucky not to lose to Tonga in their semi final last weekend.
A more experienced side would have beaten England.
The pinnacle of every sport is to become its World Champion.
This England squad are just 80 minutes away from becoming that.
In Wayne Bennett we certainly have the quiet man of coaching, but it’s out of his hands once the chosen XIII cross the whitewashed sideline in, what will be for some, the biggest game of their careers.
I cannot stress enough, just how tough it will be to beat the Kangaroos in their own back yard, but if it wasn’t for hope, what would we sports journalists write about?
The RFL team out there in Australia have worked wonders with Social media to keep fans back in England as up to date as possible, and the “OuRLeague” app has been superb. I’m happy to admit, they have surprised me with their ability to engage with fans in way they havent managed before.
No England player has EVER lifted the trophy, so here’s to our captain, Sean O’Loughlin, Slammin’ Sam Burgess, Flyin’ Jermaine McGillvary and rest of the boys.
Get up early Sunday and roar the Lions of England home to victory.
#BringItHome

The squads

England: G Widdop, J McGillvary, K Watkins, J Bateman, R Hall, K Brown, L Gale, C Hill, J Roby, J Graham, S Burgess, E Whitehead, S O’Loughlin, (capt).

Interchanges: A Walmsley, B Currie, T Burgess, C Heighington.

Australia squad: B Slater, D Gagai, W Chambers, J Dugan, V Holmes, M Morgan, C Cronk, Woods, C Smith, D Klemmer, B Cordner, M Gillett, J McGuire, W Graham, J McLean, R Campbell-Gillard, T Frizell, F Kaufusi, T Trbojevic, J Mansour, J Maloney.

Looking beyond the final, England will take on the Kiwis in a three game Autumn test series in 2018.

Who knows?

Buy your tickets now and you could be watching the World Champions…

International Test Series Fixtures

Saturday October 27 (14:30), KCOM Stadium, Hull.

Saturday November 3 (14:30), Anfield, Liverpool

Sunday November 11 (15:00), Elland Road, Leeds

Another long season ahead for Salford.

After a season of (relative) calm at Salford Devils, it looks like 2018 could be another of off field mayhem.

Rumours are reaching me that head coach Ian Watson may have lost the support of a number of senior players after belittling their efforts in last seasons race to the top 8 finish

I’m told two players from the club came to blows on “Mad Monday” outside a Manchester bar and BOTH were knocked unconscious in an altercation that was caught on CCTV, but was hushed up at the time.

At least one fan favourite left the club after being told he wasn’t pulling his weight on the field, to be snapped up by another club.

There are players telling fans how unhappy they are with Ian Watson, with one being disciplined after speaking out whilst at a local gym about being dropped last season.

Now, I’ve always found Ian to be approachable and open when interviewed, and I have approached the club for comment, but have yet to hear back from them, probably because most of the squad only returned on Monday to begin pre-season training.

I hope the rumours are untrue, as, even though I am a Hull KR fan, Salford have always had a place close to my heart.

Not only do I live in their catchment area, but I have covered them for a few different outlets over the years, and to see Salford fans on the verge of taking over the club in the form of a trust after Marwan Koukash decided he’d had enough.

Indeed, one former assistant coach’s Brother and I served in the Armed forces together and my best friend is a life long fan.

I would dearly love to see Salford win silverware, just as along as it’s not against Hull KR!

Back over the pond

Come March, I’ll be taking a well earned break back in Fort Lauderdale.

While there, I’m hoping to try to catch a couple of Spring training games from my favourite American pastime, Baseball.

I’ve written in other posts of my following of the Tampa Bay Rays, but I’ll be spreading my wings this time, and going to see other clubs as they prepare for the 2018 season.

Ideally, I’d like to try and take in a couple of rugby league games as well, but as I will have Mrs R with me, a certain amount of touristy things will have to take precedent!

So dear reader, what spring training game in Florida should I go to? Personally, I’m thinking of a cross state drive to Fort Myers and the Twins and Red Sox.

It looks like a beautiful place to visit, not too touristy, but with plenty for a couple on their  holidays to do and see.

Schedules for the grapefruit league should be out soon, but Fort Myers is my first choice.

The rugby league World cup final takes place on the 2nd December, and its the hosts Australia who will take on England, who survived a scare in their semi final, narrowly beating Tonga, 18-20, earlier today.

Can England upset the bookies, and claim their fourth title?

My heart would love to see the squad fly back with the trophy, but my head says that Australia, under the leadership of one of the greatest players ever to grace the game, Mal Meninga, will once again emerge triumphant in Brisbane.

I’d like to wish all my colleagues who have made the trip to cover the tournament a safe and happy trip to the final and a safe journey home, especially to Gary Carter, who just two years ago was lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life after an unprovoked attack in London.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-42109316

I’m certain I’ll see you all back at Salford, Leigh, Warrington and every other stadium once the new season starts.

Until the final…

Have a great week, whaterver and wherever you happen to be in the world.

Hull KR edge past Leigh in thriller at the Village

Hull KR had the luck of the devil in a close fought win over Leigh Centurions today, with the referee AND video referee missing what looked like a knock on* in the build up to their match winning try by Captain Shaun Lunt.

In an edgy encounter, it was the home side who struck first, Daniel Mortimer finding his way through a dogged Rovers defence, Josh Drinkwater adding the extras, before Rovers hit back on the half hour mark, Lunt scoring the first of his pair, converted by Jamie Ellis.

The home side went into the break with a two point lead, thanks to a penalty for holding down, which Drinkwater dispatched.

If the first half had been about flowing and attacking rugby, with defences winning the key battles, then the second half was to follow a similar pattern.

It was to be nearly 10 minutes in to the second half before either side would trouble the scoreboard again, Drinkwater slipping over a penalty after Rovers Lee Jewitt decided to mess about at the play of the ball.

As we approached the hour mark, Rovers drew level, after Ryan Shaw had his effort set upstairs to video referee James Child. Ellis accurate adding the extras and the visitors were in front, 10-12.

Ellis added a penalty to extend the Robins lead, before the home side struck back with a try from Atilia Vea, and a Drinkwater conversion that went in off the upright, saw Leigh hit the front again.

With just five minutes left on the clock came the moment that, as Leigh head coach Neil Jukes put it, could cost someone their job, as Rovers appeared to knock on at the play of the ball, only for Lunt to squeeze over for his second of the game.

Again, it was sent to the video referee, who somehow missed the knock on by Nick Scruton and went with the on field decision of try and Rovers winning score, 16-20 when the final whistle went.

Leigh coach Neil Jukes:

Hull KR coach Tim Sheens:

 

Leigh (8) 16
Tries: Mortimer, Vea Goals: Drinkwater 4
Hull KR (6) 20
Tries: Lunt 2, Shaw Goals: Ellis 4

Leigh: McNally; Dawson, Fleming, Langi, Higson; Mortimer, Drinkwater; Hansen, Higham, Maria, Vea, Paterson, Burr.

Replacements: Hood, Richards, Tickle, Stewart.

Hull KR: Moss; Carney, Blair, Hefernan, Shaw; Marsh, Ellis; Scruton, Lawler, Jewitt, Addy, Clarkson, Kavanagh.

Replacements: Lunt, Greenwood, Atkin, Masoe.

Referee: Jack Smith

*The video referee is not allowed to look at the play of the ball when a decision is referred to him. Thank you Rod Studd for letting me know.