OTHER CANDIDATES were spoken to, but Richard Agar is the right man for the job.
That was the message from Leeds Rhinos’ director of rugby Kevin Sinfield after Agar was confirmed as coach for 2020.
Agar has signed a 12-month rolling contract which will be reviewed at the end of next season.
He is Rhinos’ ninth head coach of the summer era, which began in 1996 and was confirmed in the role a year and a day after his predecessor Dave Furner.
Under Agar, who was appointed on an interim basis in May, Rhinos have won seven of their 14 Betfred Super League fixtures and are set to finish eighth in the table.
Asked at a press conference to reveal Agar’s appointment if he had spoken to anyone else, Sinfield said: “Yes. I think it was important we got the right person for the job. Richard knew all throughout that process.
“When he joined the club back in January we started a good relationship then and that honesty has been really important between the two of us.
“We have worked really well together.
“Richard had a really good view of where we were at right from the start this year, before he was made interim.
“His understanding and his appreciation of where the team and the squad’s at, what we need to do and what we are trying to build over the next couple of years has been really important.”
Sinfield insisted: “He is the right person for the job. When you look at what’s out there, he was the stand-out candidate. I am absolutely delighted he has accepted it and wants to take this on.
“It is a big job and I think we are fortunate to be able to secure someone who has that much experience. He is smart, he has coached internationally and he ‘gets it’.
“He understands where our players are at and where our squad is. Being in the bottom four for three of the last four seasons is not where this club should be but, between us, we will do our very best to get back to where we need to be.”
Agar began his coaching career at York City Knights and also had spells in charge of Hull, Wakefield Trinity and France before working alongside ex-Leeds boss Tony Smith at Warrington Wolves. And Agar said: “I am excited.
“At the same time I know the size of the task and the job in front of us.
“Being able to steer the ship over the past few months has given me a good idea of what’s in front and what we need to do to get better and the responsibility this job brings.”
Agar, who joined Leeds last winter as head of player and coach development, was initially reluctant to take the role on a permanent basis, but described his decision to stay on as a “pretty easy one to do”.
He said: “I have worked in the game all my life and worked hard.
“The previous two head-coach jobs I took I think the rosters were in a really poor state and it was a real job of trying to turn it round. A club of this size, opportunities don’t come around that often, if at all in your career.
“Being a Yorkshireman, I know the size of the club, but I think it is in a good spot. I know it has been a difficult couple of years, but I think the turnaround and to get it going better should be really do-able.
“It is a really good opportunity.
“I have got good relations with the people in the club and the support I have received played a big part in my decision.”
Agar has been working alongside assistants Ryan Carr, who is also coach of Featherstone Rovers, and Chev Walker.
Sinfield said a decision on the backroom staff for 2020 has yet to be made, but admitted: “Richard has worked really well with the staff we’ve got in place at this moment in time, but there may be one or two changes along the way.”
Of Rhinos’ squad for next year, Agar said: “I have got a realisation where we are at.
“I am not saying we are going to be challenging for honours next year – there’s still a lot of hard work to be done – but I think we have a good base to build off in terms of the squad.
“I am quite happy with the squad. I think there’s plenty of improvements left, there’s parts of our game it’s crystal clear we need to be better at.
“Some of that can be done in a bit of an off-season fix-up.
“When I came in after 14 rounds I felt we needed to work on ourselves as much as the football side of things, by that I mean bringing the group together, understanding effort and team spirit.
“I think we have got all that covered off pretty well now, but I think a pre-season working on some of those areas and those details will be great for this squad and our young players will also benefit from that.
“If this squad doesn’t change, I am pretty confident we can move it forward.
“But, as always, Kevin will be busy behind the scenes and, if we can strengthen our squad within the salary cap, we will look to do it.”