LEEDS RHINOS boss Brian McDermott says he is “cool” with what Gary Hetherington wrote in his email to disgruntled fans and said it was actually cleared by him.
Struggling Leeds host Catalans Dragons tomorrow with tension increasing at Headingley after last week’s biggest-ever Super League defeat, a humiliating 66-10 loss at derby rivals Castleford Tigers.
After receiving a record number of emails concerning that subject, chief executive Hetherington was prompted to send out his own generic email to supporters on the club’s database.
It detailed how the next four games will be crucial for him as he seeks to be in a “much better position to make an accurate judgement on the performance of all our players, coaching staff and senior management including myself.”
Although Hetherington did not make changes last year when Leeds diced with relegation, he added he is “not stubborn enough to believe no change is always the best option.”
That suggests there could be changes on the football side of the Rhinos operation with McDermott’s own position, it seems, under threat for the first time since arriving in 2010.
He, of course, is the club’s most successful coach having won three Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge while it was less than 18 months ago he led them to an historic treble having also guided Leeds to the League Leaders’ Shield.
But they endured a torrid campaign last season, finishing ninth and being forced into the ignominy of the Qualifiers, while they have suffered two defeats in their opening four fixtures this time around.
However, McDermott says he is not unduly worried.
“Something needed to be said after such an ugly day (Castelford),” he said, regarding the email.
“That was more of a club letter - I’m keen to stress that.
“Gary rang me up and cleared that letter with me; it wasn’t a case of Gary Hetherington now makes a decision.
“That was a club letter really and Gary signs that one off.
“The decision that we make or any decisions that will be made will be made as a group and there’s no shirking away that after last Thursday we need to stand up and be counted and bear the brunt of it.
I’m cool with what he said in that I’ve no drama with anything that he said.Leeds Rhinos’ coach, Brian McDermott
“I’m cool with what he said in that I’ve no drama with anything that he said.”
McDermott, 46, was asked if he thought some people may read into Hetherington’s comments as an “ultimatum” and, if so, whether they would be reading too much into that.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“There’s some lines in there where you might think ‘what does that mean?’ or ‘does that mean he’s only got four games?’
“I think what Gary - the club - is saying and what we’re saying is that we are not just going to change after just one game.
“There’s some obvious questions that will be asked and we’re not just going to do it because we had a really bad day at the office.
“Days like those at Castleford are never just down to one thing - that the players have been bad or the coach has got it wrong.
“Usually it’s a combination of a few things but the biggest factor for me was Castleford were just absolutely white hot.
“We shouldn’t be conceding 66 points - and they’re the questions that will be asked - but I won;t get away from the fact Castleford were brilliant on the day. They nailed it.
“I has been a really long, tough week - the footage has not been good to look at - but there’s been lots of signs that they will respond.
“They’ve never shirked that responsibility, not tried to hide or not shoulder some of the responsibility.”
In their favour, three of Leeds’ next four fixtures are at home with Wakefield Trinity arriving next Friday and then, a fortnight after that, champions Wigan Warriors with a trip to Huddersfield Giants in between.
Furthermore, scrum-half Rob Burrow (ill) and second-row Carl Ablett (suspended) are set to return tomorrow night after missing last week’s defeat at Castleford.
Tom Briscoe was dropped for than match, with Ash Handley coming in for his first appearance of the season, but the former England winger is poised to regain his place against Catalans.
Rhinos are still without five first-choice forwards as Jamie Jones-Buchanan (foot), Stevie Ward (hamstring) and Mitch Garbutt (pectoral muscle) miss out for a second successive game, alongside long-term casualties Keith Galloway (Achilles) and Brett Delaney (groin).