Despite being MAROONED at the foot of Super League, with a squad bereft of confidence and yet more injuries blighting preparations for tonight’s game, Leeds Rhinos boss Brian McDermott insists quitting isn’t an option.
Veteran hooker Rob Burrow (calf) and Australian prop Adam Cuthbertson (hamstring), shortlisted for Man of Steel last term, pulled out of the squad yesterday after failing fitness tests ahead of the visit of Catalans Dragons.
It was the last thing McDermott needed to hear given he was already without seven first-team regulars.
On the back of a six-game losing run, pressure is certainly mounting on the Headingley chief, who, of course, led the club to an unprecedented treble only last term.
Troubled Leeds now seem destined for the Qualifiers and, asked if results don’t improve, would he ever think about handing over the reins, McDermott replied: “Do I question myself? Of course.
“You question yourself in any of these situations. Do I question my role or influence on the group? No.
“I understand why you ask that question, I suppose you have got to ask that question.
“But, if you want to speak about personal things, there are certain things that have been out of my control.
“Two major factors (injuries and loss of training facilities) have been out of my control.
“You don’t ask for a perfect landscape but it needs to be a little better than what it is before you start pointing the finger and saying ‘you got the recruitment wrong, the coach isn’t doing this’ ...
“That’s an easy one to do at this point in time.”
McDermott, who has won three Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge, since re-joining Leeds from Harlequins in 2011, acknowledges this remains the toughest spell of his coaching career.
But, when questioned on what has been the trickiest aspect of this torrid spell, the 47 year-old said: “I’m not keen to make this about what my experiences are.
“As a group we go through things as a group. We win as a group and people get credit – I get credit – for what the players do.
“So, I’m not going to start talking about what not winning means for me.
“But, yes, it is tough and it is tough most weeks. Those that can play sometimes can’t train and once again we have had a turnover of injuries that have disrupted us.”
There is no denying Leeds’ ill-fortune with injuries.
“But that’s where we are at; I’m almost robotic to it,” added McDermott, as they seek to at least try and atone for the dismal 52-18 thrashing at Warrington.
“It’s about the team that plays against Catalans Friday night now. Would we be a better team with certain individuals in it? Of course we would.
“But where we are at at the moment and how we’ve played these last three weeks we have got to put out 13 men to start the game and, ultimately, 17 men to come up with at least a defensive performance that gives us a bit of integrity back.
“We lacked that in the second half last Friday – honesty and integrity. That’s a flavour of what we’ve been getting at this week ready for Catalans.”
Laurent Frayssinous’ side arrive with a growing belief that they could reach Old Trafford for the first time this season.
They have lost just twice in their last 11 outings to rise up to third and McDermott knows they will be yet another difficult opponent.
“They are a big team and have some memory behind them of how to play well,” he said.
“We’ll be facing a good team, we know that.
“Their pack lays a great foundation for the Todd Carneys of this world and Tony Gigot at full-back – who I had at London – has developed into a fine player, too.”
Those two losses have come in the last four matches for Catalans, though, against Wakefield Trinity and Hull FC to suggest they are not at their very best of late.
That might offer Leeds some crumb of comfort but McDermott is more intent on making sure his side concentrate on their own game.
He said: “There has been some tough conversations this week and some of those are needed.
“Sometimes it’s good to have those but again there’s enough talking been done now. We need to do it on game day.”
The injuries to Burrow and Cuthbertson are not thought to be severe. McDermott explained: “They were late calls, just this morning (Thursday).
“They’ve been carrying all week and that’s the process we’ve been through for the majority of the season.
“Some players can’t train and then we have to make the call 48 hours, sometimes 24 hours, before a game.
“It’s disappointing players of Rob and Cuthbo’s status can’t play but we just have to get on.”
Leeds pushed Catalans close in Perpignan in February, losing out just 32-28.
Three of the French side’s try-scorers that day – Dave Taylor (2), Richie Myler and Krisnan Inu – are injured and out of tonight’s game if Leeds wanted further encouragement.
Nevertheless, it will take a fine display to deliver that win.