Leeds Rhinos: Mac proposes possible Easter-type midweek matches to shorten season

Brian McDermott: PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Brian McDermott: PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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THERE WILL be no moaning about the current fixture pile-up from Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott.

He is a fan of the Easter schedule of two games in four or five days and believes midweek fixtures could be introduced “a couple” more times throughout the season.

Rhinos won 26-12 at Castleford Tigers on Good Friday and were back in action this afternoon, at home to their other near-neighbours Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

Some coaches have spoken out strongly against the annual Easter double-headers, but McDermott described the tradition of playing twice over the holiday period as “all right”.

He said: “We are full-time professionals.

“It is not something we want to do every week, but I maintain you could maybe have a couple of other Easter-type midweek fixtures throughout the year.

“You could do that if you wanted to free a couple of weekends up at the end of the year and make the season shorter, yet be busier throughout the year.

“You could have a Monday-Wednesday-Sunday type of fixture, so it doesn’t bother us.”

McDermott added: “It is an issue, I am not saying we don’t cater for it – of course we do.

“We train for it and what you do leading up to it and coming out of it is important. But I like it, I like the Easter period – it is special to our competitions and something nobody else does.”

McDermott said he wouldn’t want players to have three games in a week more than three times a year – at Easter, in the summer and towards the end of the season. He stated: “I am not saying let’s go and do that as a way of exciting our competition.

“Everyone wants a shortened season, everyone wants to finish maybe two weeks early. That would be a big thing.

“It would help the international team and give everyone a longer break and a longer off-season.I am not suggesting it as a marketing thing.

“But if one of the issues is we want to finish earlier and have a longer off-season, giving the fellas more time to recover their bodies, that could be a way of doing it.

“If you played on a Monday and then your next fixture was on a Thursday and the one after that was another Monday, I think there’s enough time there for the players to recover and to have some structural influence over what you do.

“I don’t think you get any time to coach the players and improve their catching and handling and running lines – some of the core skills.

“But I don’t think you need to at that stage of the year. Towards the back end of the year the need and ability to improve players’ individual skills is limited.

“The argument you get is you don’t get time to coach players during that period, but I don’t think you need to.”

Rhinos have had only two clear days between the Castleford game and today’s derby, but McDermott said they have been preparing for Wakefield, who are bottom of the table.

“You have got to have a bit of a generic approach to Easter in terms of what you try to do offensively,” he said.

“I think defensively is where it changes, that’s where you have got to have a quick turnaround. You do coach two teams defensively and you do work out ‘this is what Castleford are going to do’ and ‘this is what Wakefield will try to do to you’.

“You can’t just say ‘we’re not going to coach, because we don’t have time’.

“You have to, in that 48-hour period we’ve had to get some really strong messages across about how Wakefield attack and where they will try and get us.

“It is a really busy period.”