McDermott ready to produce next incarnation of Leeds
LEEDS RHINOS chief Brian McDermott admits the prospect of developing another successful side “excites” him as the latest evolution begings to takes shape at Emerald Headingley.
The role of any Super League head coach seems to be 24/7 and just as much about long-term planning as it is short-term.
McDermott, in charge of the West Yorkshire club since 2010, knows that better than most.
Many thought the retirement of legends Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai after a treble-winning season in 2015 would spell the end of Leeds’ remarkable dynasty.
Admittedly, they did struggle the following year, descending into the Qualifiers, only to bounce back again last season by lifting the title once more, McDermott’s fourth and the club’s eighth since 2004.
Leeds, though, have lost two more icons ahead of their latest title defence, with Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow – who both featured in each of those eight Grand Final wins – moving on to Hull KR and retirement respectively.
It means the club has to rebuild again but it is something on which McDermott, whose side start at Warrington Wolves on Thursday, seems to thrive and his squad appear to be, too.
“While we’ve had some tests over the last couple of years it’s always been good,” he said.
“It’s been a really rewarding two years. We now lose Mags and Rob and get thrown some more tests but we’ve come out the other side in really good shape as a group.
“You don’t really mention that by silverware. That is one way. But any decisions that need making now or any sort of adversity within the group it’s almost like they have it all covered to start with.
“And then they may knock on my door and say ‘Coach, what do you think to this….?’
“But they don’t just say that as they have no answer. They knock on my door and they say they have answers and ask if that’s something that I’m thinking about, too. It’s a really healthy way of doing things.
“But you can’t get there unless you’ve lived it a little bit, gone through some experiences and you’ve all stuck with it as well.
“What we’re experiencing at the minute I think it’s a reward for the whole club especially the owners who stuck by us and maintained calm when everyone else was talking about change.
“You go change the coach and some influential people as a knee-jerk reaction, I’ll tell you now the squad won’t be half as healthy as it is right now.”
Those dark days in mid-2016 when Leeds were rooted to the bottom of the table, barely able to muster a win with some fans calling for McDermott’s head, do now seem a long time ago.
In terms of signings, former Catalans Dragons scrum-half Richie Myler is in place to take over McGuire’s primary role while another ex-Warrington player Brad Dwyer will take on Burrow’s dummy-half duties.
But other players are growing in stature all the time, not least Brad Singleton, the rugged Cumbrian prop who made an impressive Ireland debut in the recent World Cup and, at the age of 25, captained Leeds for the first time in their Boxing Day friendly at Wakefield.
“There’s a fair amount of leaders in this squad and some good soldiers as well who will just do as they’re told,” continued McDermott.
“You need that blend. You can’t have a group of opinionated people. If you do, they have to be able to have that soldier element about them as well. I think Singo is a good example of that; he can lead and is a smart fella but can get through some work for you.
“Again, going through some experiences together, it brings out those traits.
“It might have taken another five years to unearth Singo as a potential captain of the club or certainly one of our senior leaders had we have not gone through such adversity.”
Meanwhile, Brett Ferres has ruled himself out of the Warrington game as he recovers from troublesome knee surgery.
The England second-row, who featured in the Grand Final win over Castleford Tigers, feels he also only has an outside chance of facing Melbourne Storm in the World Club Challenge on February 16.
Ferres, 31, said: “If I miss the first month or two of the season, in the scheme of things it doesn’t matter. I just need to get right, to be the player I was and player I want to be. That’s where I’m at the moment. I am not putting any pressure on myself.”
BRIAN MCDERMOTT: Leeds’s most successful coach has been in charge of the reigning champions since 2010.