DESPITE HIM being one of the most successful coaches in the club’s history, Leeds Rhinos fans – or at least the most vocal of them – have never really taken to Brian McDermott.
Until last Friday things were going swimmingly this season, with five wins and a draw from six matches. Then came a 14-10 defeat away to table-topping St Helens and suddenly it’s a crisis.
According to social media, Rhinos are a shambles and it’s time for McDermott to go.
The word “embarrassing” has even been used to describe the defeat six days ago, which left Rhinos on 11 points and third in the table, but that’s an overreaction to one loss, particularly in a close game and when Leeds’ didn’t play poorly.
Looking at the respective teamsheets, it was a match they should have won.
But Saints – in a tough situation – were outstanding and got through on pride and passion, backed by a vocal rowd who really lifted the home players.
To say it was “embarrassing” for Leeds to lose against the 17 Saints fielded is disrespectful to the opposition.
Rhinos got into Saints’ danger zone often enough – forcing six drop-outs – but could not get over the line. Sometimes that happens.
It would be more of a concern if Rhinos hadn’t been able to create chances or had been pinned at their own end for most of the game.
Had Leeds managed to score one try in the second half, or if Kevin Sinfield’s drop goal went over late on, it may have been a different story, but that said, modern rugby league is a 17-man game and Rhinos – again – used only 16 players.
In both the matches they have failed to win this season they have had an unused substitute and it is confusion over McDermott’s tactics which seems to be the biggest cause of alienation among fans.
In the 12-12 draw at Huddersfield Mitch Achurch didn’t get on.
Last week winger/full-back Ben Jones-Bishop was an unexpected choice among the substitutes, but wasn’t used.
Jones-Bishop did give Leeds options, for example he could have come on at full-back allowing Zak Hardaker to move into the centres – a position where he has won a Grand Final – and Stevie Ward into the pack.
The fact Ward was chosen to fill in for the injured Joel Moon has also puzzled many supporters, considering Carl Ablett is a more experienced option.
Then back-rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan tore a biceps muscle after 15 minutes, but carried on to half-time before having to be withdrawn. Even so, Jones-Bishop remained unused, which is hard to understand.
A forward on the bench would have made more sense, but prop Ryan Bailey was the only available member of Rhinos’ squad who was not in the 17.
Mitch Achurch failed a head test, so Chris Clarkson came in on the bench; Paul Aiton was ill and Moon injured.
The club have denied Bailey’s stint on dual-registration at Hunslet is a disciplinary measure, but if he is being taught a lesson after missing training a couple of weeks ago, bringing him back in would not have sent out a positive message, so McDermott was right to stick to his guns. This is McDermott’s fourth season in charge, which is a relatively long reign.
Like all coaches, he will be judged on results, but that should apply to good ones as well as bad.
If Rhinos again fail to collect a trophy questions will be asked, but at the moment his position is safe and when he does go, it will be on his own terms.
IT’S TIME TO BUILD ON WORLD CUP LEGACY
the official review of last year’s World Cup, unveiled earlier this week, painted a picture of an historic, record-breaking and hugely successful event, which generated a profit of more than £3m profit for the sport.
Towns and cities which hosts matches cashed in significantly. The direct economic impact of the tournament for hosts England and Wales was £9.6m, Cardiff benefited from staging the opening ceremony to the tune of £8.5m, the semi-final double header at Wembley generated a direct economic impact of £12.3m for London and as a result of staging the final Manchester experienced a direct economic benefit of £8.4m.
Apparently more than 30,000 people were inspired to become involved with rugby league as a result of attending World Cup games and 38 per cent of tickets were sold to people living outside the north of England – with 14 per cent of ticket holders watching their first live rugby league.
It was a wonderful event, which left just about everybody concerned crying out for more. It is just a shame that six months on, we still don’t know when the next international games will be staged in this country or when nations like Tonga, USA, Italy and others will next get chance to play again.