I HAVE played under four different coaches in the first team at Leeds, but never been in a situation where there’s been a change mid-way through the season.
The closest I have come was when I was in the academy and Daryl Powell – who was in charge of us – stepped up to be head coach after Dean Lance got the push, back in 2001.
It was a bit of a surprise when Brian McClennan left in the 2010 off-season and I remember there was quite a lot of controversy about the decision to replace Daryl Powell with Tony Smith.
Daryl had a good season in 2003; we got to the Challenge Cup final and were one game away from Old Trafford, but as it turned out bringing Tony Smith in was a master stroke.
We are still doing things now that Tony introduced 10 years ago, so he had a massive impact on the team and club and he played a huge part in the success we’ve enjoyed over the past decade.
But I think when Leeds have made a change, they have done it the right way. Gary Hetherington and the board have tended to wait until the end of the season and they’ve made sure the best person is available to come in.
Looking from the outside, I don’t think other clubs always do that. We are 12 rounds into the season now and there’s already been a couple of changes in Super League – with Brian Noble and Tony Rea both losing their jobs – and John Bastian was sacked by Featherstone Rovers this week as well.
Clubs tend to axe coaches to provoke a response from the players, but I am not sure that works. I think it probably has an affect in the first game, but then things go back to the way they were.
It pays off sometimes. Castleford have been fantastic since Daryl took over a year ago and he has done a remarkable job in a short space of time. He has transformed them from a team down near the foot of the table to one doing well up at the top, but clubs often act too hastily.
London are struggling and I am not sure their problems are due to coaching – it is more the fact they only pulled a side together a few weeks before the season began and they have players who are still coming to terms with the demands of Super League.
John Bastian had only 10 games in charge at Featherstone – which does not seem long enough to make a decision about whether he is the right man for the job – and I think Salford were premature in taking the coaching role away from Brian Noble.
Nobby is a good coach, but he had to bring a new group of players together and it just wasn’t realistic to expect him to have them playing at the top of their game straight away.
When a new coach comes in he brings his own techniques and systems and it takes players time to adapt. We are probably only fully benefiting now from what Brian McDermott has introduced and he is in his fourth season in charge. Sport is a results-driven business and when coaches get a job they know they are only a few defeats away from losing it, but I think sometimes clubs should be more patient and focus more on performance and what’s right in the long-term.
I think Castleford Tigers have had it tough on the fixture list this season.
I am writing this before we played them at the Jungle last night, but that was their third short turnaround of the year and we are only into round 12.
They have had the Easter period – playing Friday and then Monday – and have backed-up with a Thursday game after playing the previous Sunday on a couple of other occasions as well. Cas always get up to play Leeds and I don’t think it will have affected them too much last night, especially with the clever way Daryl Powell has managed his squad this season, but I don’t think it is ideal for any team to have such a short time between games.
We have got three Thursday games scheduled this season and we have a six-day turnaround for all of them. I wrote in this column a few weeks ago about the Easter period and I don’t mind that, it is tradition and it’s the same for all teams. But the problem with the Thursday evening games is some clubs are having it tougher than others.
I don’t mind playing on a Thursday and if the TV viewing figures are good and it creates a bit more interest in our sport, then I am all for it. But I think the fixture list should be arranged so if you are playing on a Thursday, your previous match is on a Friday, or Saturday at the latest.
All that said, it is not something that players get stressed about.
We live our lives week to week and by the fixture list.
You are always recovering from one game and/or preparing for the next.
Playing on a Thursday or Friday does not make much of a difference, but you do tend to approach it a bit differently if you have a match on a Sunday afternoon, as you have the weekend to get through first.
At Leeds we play most of our home fixtures – and a lot of away ones, as we tend to be on television quite frequently – on a Friday night and that suits me.
I think if you asked most players when they would want to play, it would be Friday night. The big advantage of that is you get chance to do a bit of recovery on the Saturday morning and then have the rest of the weekend with your family, away from rugby.
You get a break and that’s not really possible after Sunday afternoon games.
You then turn up on Monday feeling more relaxed, refreshed and ready to get going for the next one.
IT was interesting watching last weekend’s international rugby league, with Australia playing New Zealand and Samoa beating Fiji to qualify for this autumn’s Four Nations.
They were both close, competitive games and the players involved will have taken a lot out of it. England don’t have a mid-season game this year and I can’t see how that helps them prepare for the autumn internationals or promotes interest in our sport.
I know the logistics of it are difficult and will get even tougher next year, when we have more Super League fixtures, but the Aussies have the Anzac Test every year and a three-game State of Origin series and that can only help their preparations for the end of the season.
I don’t know how it could be fitted in, but I’d like to see the best English players involved in some sort of series mid-way through the year.
Another issue is that the World Cup created great interest, but all that has been allowed to evaporate because of a lack of international fixtures, which is a huge shame.