LEEDS RHINOS will struggle to replace players like Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, but club legend Barrie McDermott reckons other talents will emerge.
McDermott is leaving Rhinos after 20 years to start a management and player-welfare business – Front Row 1895 – with close friend and ex-Wigan Warriors prop Terry O’Connor.
He admits Headingley will be a very different place with some of the club’s all-time greats no longer on the books, but is still predicting a bright future.
“When people like JP, Kev and Kylie leave it is going to be very difficult to replace like-for-like,” said McDermott. “It would be wrong to expect the next player who wears the No 13 shirt to play the same as Kev. The game changes and roles evolve and so do the players. When you look at the outstanding young players coming through now, they are different and their requirements are different.
“Back when I got into the first team I didn’t know a quarter of what they know now. At 18 or 19 they know how gps can measure performance, they can interpret detailed analysis and know all about how nutrition helps fuel the body. They ask more questions than we used to.
“These outstanding young lads are coming through and they will make their mark. The club and the team are going to get better and better – and as far as I am concerned, Leeds is already the best club in the game, on and off the pitch.”
McDermott joined Leeds in 1995 and had a decade as a player, before spells as youth boss and then player welfare manager – a role Leuluai will inherit next year.
McDermott reckons the quality of individuals associated with Leeds and the club’s production line of young talent will guarantee a bright future.
“The club brings its own players through,” he said. “Those players know how the system works, what they have to put in and equally what they will get out and that will never change. Gary Hetherington [chief executive], Paul Caddick [chairman] and Brian McDermott [coach] do a fantastic job.
“Some of the work Mac does with local junior coaches goes unnoticed, because he does it off the radar. He doesn’t do it for himself, he does it because he knows if you have good players at under-10s and 11s level, you get good players – and those players will come into the system and have a better chance of succeeding.
“I have a real connection with lads I played with, like Kev, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire. Newer senior players – like Adam Cuthbertson, Brett Delaney, JP and Kylie – have come in and embraced and enhanced the club’s philosophy.
“That has been one of the highlights of my post-playing career, spending time with good people who are actually teaching me. It’s the same with lads like Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton and Stevie Ward.
“They have bought into Leeds as a way of life, they want the same things and have the same hunger to succeed. The club will benefit, because it has the right people, in the right places.”