LEEDS say they would not stand in the way of Brian McDermott becoming England coach despite handing him a ground-breaking, unending contract with them.
The 42-year-old McDermott has agreed an ongoing deal with the Rhinos instead of a traditional coaching or playing contract, which the reigning Super League champions claim is a first in professional sport.
The former Bradford and Great Britain forward’s initial three-year contract was due to run out at the end of the season but chief executive Gary Hetherington said today’s announcement, which comes as Leeds prepare to launch the defence of their title, will prevent any speculation arising over his future.
Hetherington, an innovator who became one of the first rugby league players to buy back his own contract during his playing days at Huddersfield in the 1980s, denies McDermott has a job for life but sees no reason to set an end date.
“There are no jobs for life for any of us but it’s for the foreseeable future,” Hetherington told Press Association Sport.
“There is no time limit so it takes away all the speculation and it gives us confidence in terms of our longer-term vision and plans.
“Brian McDermott is at the heart of all those plans and it’s important that he can see the way forward in terms of putting them into place.
“The club is going through a transition from the golden generation of players. We’ve seen exciting players emerging and cementing their places in the squad and Brian has been a part of that.
“It’s recognition that Brian is part of the furniture at Headingley Carnegie. He has got a tremendous record here and is very hungry for a lot more success in the future.
“It’s probably a first. I’m not aware of any other similar arrangement in sport.”
“We do put end dates on most people, certainly players and indeed coaches, but we don’t see a need to do that with Brian.”
McDermott was on a three-man, all British short-list for the role of national coach when former Leeds boss Tony Smith stepped down in 2009 but lost out to Steve McNamara, whose contract is up at the end of this year’s World Cup.
McDermott’s stock has risen considerably over the last three years after becoming the first Englishman to coach teams to back-to-back Super League titles and he would become a firm favourite if the England job were to become vacant.
Hetherington agreed to release Smith from his Rhinos contract in 2007 to enable him to succeed Brian Noble as Great Britain coach and says he would have no problem doing the same with McDermott.
“We are big supporters of progression for players and staff and, if such an opportunity were to ever arise in the future, we wouldn’t stand in anybody’s way,” Hetherington said.
“If you remember, that happened with Tony Smith a few years ago.”
McDermott, who was Smith’s assistant at Headingley before moving on to become head coach at London Broncos, rejoined the Rhinos in November 2010 and has led the club to every possible final so far, winning the Grand Final in 2011 and 2012 from an unprecedented fifth place each time.
“This is a very exciting time to be part of the Leeds Rhinos club,” McDermott said. “We have enjoyed a period of unparalleled success in the club’s history with an extraordinary group of players.
“We will kick off the new season with a strong squad and looking to give our absolute best in every game to try and challenge for all the honours once again.
“However, in the years ahead lies an exciting opportunity to build a transition between this golden era and potentially the next one.
“Whilst that will be a sizeable challenge and one that has eluded clubs like Bradford and Wigan in recent decades, it is one we are confident we have the building blocks in place to give us the best possibility of achieving.”
Leeds and England captain Kevin Sinfield welcome today’s announcement, saying: “I have said on many occasions that Brian McDermott is the best coach I have ever worked with.
“He has given this group so much in the last two years and it is great news that he has agreed this new deal.”