ONE OF the most notorious hardmen to play in Super League, Barrie McDermott will celebrate his 42nd birthday tomorrow.
From Oldham, McDermott had a playing career full of ups and downs and then reinvented himself when he hung up his boots, becoming a mentor for young players, noted after-dinner speaker and respected media pundit.
McDermott began his playing career with his hometown club during the 1991-92 season – being signed on after a promising amateur career, despite losing an eye in a childhood accident with an air rifle.
He joined Wigan in 1994-95 and was a member of their Regal Trophy-winning squad, but moved to Leeds the following season, which was the last before summer rugby began.
McDermott made 232 Super League appearances for Leeds from 1996-2005, including the 2004 Grand Final win over Bradford Bulls.
He was a try scorer in the 1999 Challenge Cup final as Leeds came from 10-0 down to run up a record score against London Broncos – after being sent-off in Rhinos’ first tie, a home win over Wigan Warriors.
Poor form and injury the year before had almost ended his Leeds career, but he pulled through and played his final game for the club in the 2005 Super League title decider at Old Trafford, when they lost to Bradford.
He had a season at Widnes Vikings after that, playing alongside close pal Terry O’Connor and hung up his boots after their promotion-decider loss to Hull KR.
McDermott was surprisingly skilful for a big man, with a smart offload and neat footwork, but it was as an enforcer he really built his reputation.
He was sent-off nine times (four times playing for Leeds) in his career, which also included games for Lancashire, Great Britain, England, Ireland and Australian country club Wyong.
McDermott was cited or charged after being placed on report on another four occasions and sin-binned 12 times, six of those as a Leeds player.
Despite all that, McDermott is regarded as one of the nicest men in rugby league and his reputation in the sport has grown since he retired.
He works regularly for Sky Sports as a match summariser and had a successful spell as Rhinos’ head of youth, signing many of the players currently in the club’s academy system, as well as the youngsters who have broken into the first team over recent seasons.
He is now in charge of player welfare at the club, his brief including making sure Leeds’ current and future stars don’t repeat some of the mistakes he admits he made in his early years.