Kevin Sinfield is ‘ideally suited’ to his role at Leeds Rhinos says Gary Hetherington
OF late, he has more commonly been seen pounding the streets of Saddleworth and Oldham rather than rugby fields but Kevin Sinfield has also been praised for the impact he has had in his more regular role of Leeds Rhinos director of rugby.
He is resuming those duties after completing his heroic exploits this week, raising more than £2.4m for former team-mate Rob Burrow and the Motor Neurone Disease Association when running seven marathons in seven days, each inside just four hours.
Rhinos fans are used to their former captain producing remarkable feats on the field having led them to seven Super League titles and two Challenge Cups during his decorated career in the Blue and Amber.
It perhaps should be no surprise, then, that Sinfield is also clearly getting to grips with the director of rugby position that was fashioned for him at Emerald Headingley.
Sometimes, such a role – sitting above a head coach – can cause issues or friction in a management team when it comes to who does what.
However, Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington is delighted with the way the 40-year-old has grown into it at Leeds and dovetailed with head coach Richard Agar.
Sinfield came in after Brian McDermott – the club’s most successful coach – was sacked in July 2018 and was tasked with rebuilding the football department after too much inconsistency in performance. Admittedly, his appointment of former team-mate Dave Furner backfired, the Australian being discarded after just 14 games in charge. However, Sinfield promoted Agar from within and the progress since is clear to see, Rhinos having won the Challenge Cup final in October.
“There was never any question in my mind Kevin was ideally suited for that role and that it would work,” said Hetherington, who relinquished his football department duties to the iconic former England captain.
“Clearly, Kevin has quite a lot of talents and abilities and rugby is where his expertise is; he’s putting that to good use. What he’s shown is that he’s certainly well capable of making tough decisions.
“And, quite importantly, one thing we all have to do occasionally is admit when we’ve got things wrong and be prepared to do something about it. He’s shown really good character in that regard and we have to say it has been a difficult transition for the club [since 2015]. It always was going to be.
“But Kevin is in the middle of that transition and is clearly a great asset to the club. We do feel we are coming out of it to better days ahead. Winning the Challenge Cup this year was his first major trophy as a director of rugby so that was very significant for him and Richard Agar.
“Those two have struck up a really good working relationship which is very important and it’s a great comfort to me; it’s the working environment you need – a mutual respect between all managers and staff.”
Ex-Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity boss Agar has appreciated the dynamic and having someone there to take on “energy-draining” issues ranging from talking with agents to attending board meetings.
Agar, 48, added: “To have someone looking after the club as a whole – looking at the long-term thinking and calmer strategy about it – is good. Kev can filter the bits of information down into what I need to know and not need to know.
“We disagree, too. He trusts me on a lot of things, especially recruitment and the direction we want to run the team in. But, at the same time, such is our relationship we can disagree and agree to disagree; we’re in a position where we can have debates.
“We’re different personalities the way we both deal with things: Kev is very calm and considered whereas I am a let’s-get-it-done type of person. They can complement each other at the right time as well.”
As they build into 2021, it seems a perfect match.
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