LEEDS RHINOS coach Brian McDermott says he has undergone an “honest, hard review process” of himself and everything under his command at Headingley and vowed his squad will be “more skilled” in 2015.
They are stepping up their preparations for the new campaign that starts at Hull KR on February 8 with the Leeds boss promising greater accuracy and style when it gets underway.
Despite winning the Challenge Cup, Rhinos fell away badly at the end of last season, losing six successive matches to finish sixth, their lowest placing since 1996, and crash immediately out of the play-offs.
McDermott says there has been some tough analysis of what went wrong but it has crucially helped shape future plans.
“We stripped a couple of things right back,” he said, with Rhinos having returned to pre-season training on November 3.
“While for the vast majority of last season we were very good and achieved so much, there were also some things we weren’t as good at as we should have been. Clearly, I think, we weren’t skilful enough; I thought we made far too many errors.
“When you look at the comp’ stats, we didn’t stack up that well compared to the rest. We need to be more skilled.
“Some of that is what you’d call ‘lack of skill’ but we also came up with too many unrealistic passes.
“Most coaches want to eradicate all errors out of their game but I don’t think you can and if you pass the ball a lot you’re going to make some errors.
“One of the stats reads we passed the ball more than any other team last year so, therefore, by that rationale we’re going to make a few more mistakes than most. But that still doesn’t account for some we made. That has to be tightened up.”
However, McDermott insists that does not mean there will be a more cautious approach next term as they look to regain the title for the first time since 2012.
“The answer isn’t not passing but being better,” he said.
“We have to be more skilful and, by that, people might now be thinking reverse flick passes, passes squeezed out of the backside and 50m spiral efforts.
“But that’s not skill. That’s playing flamboyant. We just need to be more skilled with the chances we had last year, be able to convert some of those with better decisions and execution.
“To the naked eye, hopefully, there will be fewer unforced errors and fewer forced tries.
“Some of our scores were dogged and workmanlike last year, or down to individual brilliance from people like Kallum Watkins, Danny McGuire or Joel Moon rather than subtle skill.
“It’s one area we’re working on. People are very excited by it.”
McDermott admits the players themselves have had a big input into their change in tack.
“We’ve been through a real thorough, heavy review process which pretty much involved me talking to every player, coach and director and getting their opinion, which is not easy to do letting someone have a free rein like that,” he said.
“It’s like opening yourself up to the (fans forum) SouthStander! You have to be able to wear all that. Some of that is information you don’t want, a lot is valuable and a lot you already knew.
“Nobody sits down and says ‘Mac we got that completely wrong.’ I wouldn’t be in the job if I had got things that badly wrong.
“But people do suggest things and say we probably need to adapt this or this has seen its end now and we need to progress it.
“From all that, we came up with a decent opinion of what it will look like next year.”