GRAND FINAL winner Dave Furner is returning to Leeds Rhinos as head coach.
The Australian will rejoin the club – where he ended his playing career – on a three-year contract beginning in the closed season.
James Lowes will remain at Rhinos in his existing role of first-team coach, with Kevin Sinfield continuing as director of rugby.
Furner is currently assistant-coach at NRL club South Sydney Rabbitohs and his appointment was confirmed in both hemispheres this morning.
The 47-year-old played more than 200 games as a second-row forward for Canberra Raiders from 1992-2000 and also represented Australia and New South Wales before a two-year stint with Wigan Warriors.
Son of legendary Australian coach Don Furner, he joined Rhinos in 2003 and was a key member of the team which topped the table and won Leeds’ first Super League title the following year, hanging up his boots after the Grand Final win over Bradford Bulls.
He was assistant-coach at Canberra for three seasons and spent five years as team boss.
He was assistant-coach at North Queensland Cowboys when they won the NRL Grand Final in 2015 and had six seasons as No 2 to Australia coach Tom Sheens.
At Test level he was assistant-coach with Tonga when they reached the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup.
Furner, who joined South Sydney last year, has been strongly linked with Leeds since Brian McDermott was sacked in June.
He said: “First of all, it is fantastic to be heading back to a club where I have so many fantastic memories from my playing days.
“I would like to say thank you to the board of directors, [chief executive] Gary Hetherington and Kevin Sinfield for offering me this opportunity and I am looking forward to helping the club progress in the future.
“I know Kevin and the team are working hard to get through the Qualifiers at present and I have every confidence they will do that with the backing of the fantastic fans at the Rhinos.”
He added: “I have had two wonderful seasons at the Rabbitohs and this was not a decision I took lightly.
It is fantastic to be heading back to a club where I have so many fantastic memories from my playing days.David Furner
“Returning to England is something my family and I are excited about come the end of the season.
“In the meantime, I am looking to finishing my time at South Sydney in the best possible fashion and wish Kevin and the team good luck for the remainder of their campaign starting on Sunday at Widnes.”
Sinfield captained Furner at Leeds in 2003-4.
He said: “We are delighted to have secured Dave’s services at the Rhinos especially given his outstanding coaching record.
“He is someone who has always remained a friend of the club since he left here and it fantastic to have him back on board for next season.
“As well as focusing on our current position, there is a great deal of work going on behind the scenes to make sure we build for the future and the signing of Dave Furner is a massive indication of that vision.”
Rhinos’ existing backroom team including assistant coaches Chev Walker and Rob Burrow – both former team-mates of Furner – will remain in place.
Rhinos are facing a desperate battle to hold on to their Betfred Super League status and will travel to Widnes tomorrow knowing defeat could see them drawn into the million pound match.