Leeds Rhinos legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan on how he plans to lift the struggling team after replacing Richard Agar

NEW INTERIM-COACH Jamie Jones-Buchanan says his first priority is to get Leeds Rhinos playing to their potential.

By Peter Smith
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 6:06 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 9:51 am

The 40-year-old former Headingley player and multiple Grand Final winner was appointed yesterday after previous boss Richard Agar stepped down following a run of five defeats in six matches this season.

Outlining his immediate goals, Jones-Buchanan insisted: “We are not trying to make massive transformations, but we have still got a developing group and some young players who need to come through and adopt a really good culture that can deal with adversity and persevere through difficult moments on the field and can survive being under the blow torch on the field, under high pressure.

“That takes time, but in the short-term, we just want to get some performances together and get the results I think the team we’ve got on paper should be producing, not just for us, but for our fans as well.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Pre Season Friendley. Bradford Bulls v Leeds Rhinos. Rhinos assistant coaches Sean Long and Jamie Jones-Buchanan. 23rd January 2022. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

One of the first members of Rhinos’ golden generation, Jones-Buchanan played 421 games for his home city club from 1999-2019 and joined the coaching staff after hanging up his boots.

Chief executive Gary Hetherington has said he is starting the search for a new permanent coach with a blank sheet of paper and Jones-Buchanan stressed: “I am interested in Leeds getting the best person for the job.”

He said: “If there’s somebody out there that can do a great job and get results and build a great culture, I would open the door with both hands.

“My journey has never been about me, I have never spoken publicly about being a head coach.

Leeds Rhinos' Kruise Leeming is tackled by Salford Red Devils' Andy Ackers during the Betfred Super League match at the Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Picture date: Friday March 18, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story RUGBYL Salford. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

“I have always spoken about wanting to serve the club as I did as a player and as a fan when I was nine years old.

“I find myself in this position through circumstance and I will do

my very best, with the energy, drive and passion I have always had for this club, until a better, more suitable individual is found.”

Jones-Buchanan and another of Agar’s former assistants, Sean Long, will work alongside Rhinos’ performance director Richard Hunwicks.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 29/07/2021 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League Round 16 - Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos - MKM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull, England - File picture of Richard Agar who has stood down from his role of Leeds Rhinos's head coach today

“When you go down the list of qualifications, the biggest one I am missing is probably time and experience,” the caretaker boss accepted.

“I’ve done lots of coaching throughout my life, but being at a club like Leeds Rhinos in Super League is a different level.

“I haven’t got all the answers, but there’s a wonderful plethora of experience within the staff.

“We just need to create an environment where we can have a collective IQ and each member of the staff can have an input that’s worth all those years of experience I am missing.”

Paying tribute to Agar, Jones-Buchanan said: “It is sad, you don’t ever want to see a coach leave before their time, but I understand the reasons why.

“I think it’s important to publicly thank him for the contribution he has made to Leeds Rhinos.

“Every coach wants to leave a club in a better position than when he joined it and when he took over, he inherited a team going through a real transitional period.

“We got beaten by Bradford Bulls at Odsal in the Challenge Cup and I remember that as being one of the lowest moments of my time here.

“Since then, he has transformed the team and squad, he has won a Challenge Cup, brought in some world class players and some youthful players, through Covid and one of the most injury-stricken periods I’ve ever seen.

“The staff and infrastructure we’ve got now, even though we’ve had some bad results, is world class.”

Jones-Buchanan’s first game in charge will be Saturday’s Betfred Challenge Cup derby against Castleford Tigers at Headingley.

He stated: “We have all got a job to do and that’s to get a team together, smiling, playing well, performing and competing with a team who, while they have been through the mill themselves this year, some of their recent performances suggest they are on an upward trajectory.

“They are going to be a big challenge for us. It is knockout football and while it’s a dark time, it’s also an opportunity.”