Interim Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar immediately jumped in his car to visit Dave Furner when hearing about the head coach’s shock sacking and conceded he finds the current situation “surreal”.
The ex-Wakefield Trinity and Hull FC chief initially joined Leeds in the newly-created role of head of player and coach development in December.
But he joined Furner’s coaching team last month after assistant Jimmy Lowes’ departure and is suddenly now in the top job after Rhinos parted company with the Australian over the bank holiday weekend.
Ex-Canberra Raiders boss Furner was only six months into a three-year contract but had won just four of his opening 14 games with the club.
It means Agar, 47, now finds himself preparing Leeds for Saturday’s televised Coral Challenge Cup sixth-round tie against Bradford Bulls at Odsal.
“It’s been difficult because Dave’s my mate and he’s a bloke I really care about,” he said.
“It just came as an absolute shock. I got a phone call on Sunday afternoon from (director of rugby) Kevin (Sinfield) to break the news to me.
“We didn’t talk for too long and I just said I needed to digest it all. I immediately jumped in my car and went to Dave’s house.
“He only lives five minutes from me. I got to understand some of the reasons that had been put to Dave and what it was all about, and wanted to be there for him as a mate really.
“I met Kevin Monday afternoon, with the players coming in Tuesday, and very much the conversation was about getting ready to play this week.”
Agar was involved in a joint press conference with Bradford at Odsal today, ironically alongside Bulls coach John Kear; they were assistant and head coach respectively when Hull FC stunned Leeds in the 2005 Challenge Cup final.
“I’m just pleased I was sat up there with John because he completely dominated the press conference!” said Agar.
“Bearing in mind what’s happened I came to the press conference thinking I’ve been dropped in a right s**t storm here.
“(But) John’s a master at this type of thing. I’ve worked with him before and we’ve had a conversation about the circumstances now.
“It all seems a little bit surreal really.”
Agar is joint-favourite with ex-Wigan Warriors boss Shaun Wane and Richard Marshall – who recently left Halifax – to get the job permanently.
However, having worked at NRL club St George Illawarra last year as head of player pathways, he recently stated how he loved the similar role at Headingley and had no urge to return to Super League coaching.
So, is the former Dewsbury Rams stand-off now interested again?
“That was one of the questions I knew I was going to get asked,” said Agar.
“What you’ve got to appreciate is how this has happened.
“Three weeks ago I was doing the job I loved. Jimmy left quite suddenly, Dave’s a good mate of mine and asked me to help him out.
“The speed in which this has happened – I know this sounds really cliched but I’ve just got to concentrate on, and get the players to concentrate on this week. Long-term future and plans simply haven’t been discussed.
“The speed in which events happened over the weekend probably leaves the club understandably in a position where they’ve no back-up plan at that time.
“Being the most experienced coach left in the club, I feel it’s my duty really to step into the role and try and stabilise it during what is generally a difficult period, where you lose a coach and the team is not where you want it to be in the league.
“I’m not there thinking ‘great, this is my chance to do the job’, I just want to do a really good job for however long it needs the club, Kevin and Gary (Hetherington) to work out what’s next.”