THE FUTURE of Yorkshire Carnegie coach Gary Mercer was today clouded in confusion.
Mercer is understood to have left the Headingley-based club following last Friday’s home draw with the Championship’s bottom side Plymouth Albion.
There was no comment from Carnegie on Monday, when forwards coach Tommy McGee took training.
However, the club yesterday issued a statement denying Mercer had been sacked, but confirming he will not be in charge for forthcoming games.
The 48-year-old former Leeds Rhinos player and Castleford Tigers rugby league coach joined Carnegie in August, but struggled to make an early impression and they won only two of his eight league games in charge.
The 19-19 draw with Plymouth – salvaged thanks to a last-gasp try after the visitors had been reduced to 13 men – drew a crowd of just 1,265 and left the newly-branded team still looking for their first home win of the campaign.
The club statement in full read: “Yorkshire Carnegie have looked to clarify the position of head coach Gary Mercer.
“The club wishes to make it clear that Gary Mercer has not been dismissed from his position.
“The board is naturally disappointed with the start we have made to the season and we are working hard to ensure that an immediate improvement is made and sustained following the draw with Plymouth Albion on Friday night.
“As part of this ongoing process we have held detailed discussions with Gary.
“We now enter a spell of three weeks of British & Irish Cup pool games and, as per the last period of games in this competition, Tommy McGee will take charge of team affairs whilst the board, under the stewardship of Sir Ian McGeechan, look to resolve the best way forward for the club.
“At the present time, there is no further comment to make on Gary Mercer’s future with the club.”
Mercer – whose approach has been questioned by some members of the team – was just two months into a two-year contract and it is understood legal issues may have prevented the club confirming his departure. The New Zealander, who represented his country 21 times in the 13-a-side code, played for Bradford, Warrington, Leeds, Halifax and Castleford.
He had a spell in charge of Halifax and was Castleford coach in 2004.
After leaving the Jungle he switched codes to take up an assistant-coach’s position with Glasgow Warriors.
He had a decade coaching north of the border, working with Scotland’s ‘A’, under-21 and under-20 sides and being head coach of the under-16s.
Mercer joined Leeds just two weeks before the start of their Championship campaign, after forwards coach McGee and other members of the backroom staff had overseen most of pre-season training.
Carnegie, then playing under the Leeds banner, finished third in the Championship last year under another ex-league star James Lowes, before he left the club to take over at his former club Bradford Bulls.
Carnegie are back in action on Friday when they visit Aberavon.
McGee – a former Scotland ‘A’ prop – had two spells as a player at Leeds and returned to the club as a coach during the 2012-13 season. He initially combined duties at Leeds with his role as head coach at Wharfedale, but became a full-time member of the coaching staff in 2013.