THE DECISION to axe coach Dave Furner took Leeds Rhinos’ players by surprise.
Furner’s departure, just six months into a three-year contract, was announced on Tuesday morning, four days after Rhinos crashed to their 10th defeat of the season, 28-16 at Salford Red Devils.
Rhinos won four of 14 Betfred Super League fixtures under Furner - plus one tie in the Coral Challenge Cup - and are third from bottom in the table.
“It was a bit of a shock, to be honest,” Rhinos captain Kallum Watkins admitted of the decision to sack the 48-year-old who was a Grand Final winner as a player for Leeds in 2004.
“I got on with Dave really well.
“He’s a really hard-working guy, but it’s just one of those things that has happened.
We haven’t come up with the performances we needed to and haven’t got the results we needed so of course we take responsibility for what’s happened.Leeds Rhinos’ Kallum Watkins
“They have made a decision based on how we’ve been playing and performing.
“It hasn’t been good enough so they’ve made a decision to move on. Obviously it’s hard, it’s sad, but we’ve just got to try and move on from it.”
Furner coached Canberra Raiders from 2009-2013 and was an assistant in the NRL with North Queensland Cowboys and South Sydney Rabbitohs, as well as at Test level for Australia and Tonga, before joining Leeds last November.
Watkins said the players have to take responsibility for their current plight which led to Furner’s sudden exit. Asked if the squad feel they have let Furner down, Watkins insisted: “Of course.
“I think looking back at the games we’ve played and the results and the performances, some of it has been, in patches, pretty good.
“But there’s been areas where we’ve needed to improve in terms of managing the game a bit better and we haven’t done that.
“We haven’t come up with the performances we needed to and haven’t got the results we needed so of course we take responsibility for what’s happened.”
Rhinos are just two points clear of bottom club London Broncos and in front of Hull KR due to a better for and against.
Super League’s bottom club after 29 rounds will be relegated to the Championship and Rhinos - champions two years ago - are now more than half way through their league campaign.
Former Hull, Wakefield Trinity and France boss Richard Agar, who joined Rhinos in a non-coaching role in the off-season, has taken over as interim head coach.
He had been Furner’s assistant since James Lowes left the club last month.
He will take charge on Saturday when struggling Rhinos visit Championship side Bradford Bulls in the Challenge Cup and his first Super League game will be at home to local rivals Castleford Tigers the following Thursday.
“For us we need to stick together, get through it, but also be respectful for what Dave did for us,” Watkins added.
“He is a good man who I got on with really well, but the decision has been made and we have to react in the right way and get back to performing well and winning.
“We owe that to ourselves, to Dave and to the club as well.
“It just hasn’t been good enough.”