Leeds Rhinos: McDermott steps down from coaching role with US national team

Leeds Rhinos coach, Brian McDermott. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Leeds Rhinos coach, Brian McDermott. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Leeds boss Brian McDermott has stepped down as head coach of the United States national team.

The 48-year-old former Bradford and Great Britain forward has combined the Hawks role with his day job at the Rhinos for the last three years but has told the USRL that he does not wish to continue in the job.

McDermott was appointed by the USRL in the summer of 2015 and successfully guided the Hawks through the 2017 Rugby League World Cup qualifiers with victories over Jamaica and Canada. The Hawks were the rank outsiders going into the tournament Down Under last October and duly lost all three group matches against Fiji, Italy and Papua New Guinea.

McDermott’s men conceded 168 points and scored just 12, all against the Fijians, but it was no real surprise following the decision of the selectors to choose a largely domestic team rather than opting to bolster the squad with NRL-qualified Americans in order to encourage the development of more local players.

McDermott’s agreement with the US Rugby League ran out at the end of the World Cup and he has informed the board of his decision to step down, although he has yet to offer an explanation.

McDermott’s decision to quit his job with the Hawks leaves the USRL looking for a replacement for a Test match against Canada, pencilled in as a curtain-raiser for England’s clash with the Kiwis in Colorado on Saturday, June 23.

In December McDermott announced he would be interested in the England job if it became vacant and remained part-time, but Australian Wayne Bennett was subsequently reappointed on a two-year contract.

The axing of Denis Betts as Bennett’s assistant and Daryl Powell’s decision to reject the chance to step into his shoes means there is still a vacancy on the England backroom staff in the build-up to the mid-season Test against New Zealand in Denver.

It may well be that McDermott is content to focus all his energy on Leeds, who have made an encouraging start to their defence of their 2017 Betfred Super League title.

McDermott is Super League’s longest-serving coach, having joined the Rhinos ahead of the 2011 season, and has guided them to four Grand Final triumphs, two Challenge Cups, a League Leaders’ Shield and World Club Challenge.

He began his coaching career on the backroom staff at Huddersfield and had a spell at Leeds before accepting his first head coaching role with Harlequins (later London Broncos) in 2006.