Brian Mac deserves rousing reception on return to Leeds Rhinos

Former Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott should receive a “warm” welcome at Emerald Headingley on Thursday, treble-winning forward Adam Cuthbertson says.

The Betfred Super League round six fixture will see McDermott, now in charge of Toronto Wolfpack, coach against Leeds for the first time since he was sacked by them in June, 2018.

He has already made one visit to Headingley this term, when Toronto lost to Castleford Tigers in round one, but Cuthbertson reckons this week's game is an opportunity for fans and the club to show their appreciation.

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Cuthbertson won two Grand Finals, a Challenge Cup and league leaders’ shield under McDermott.

Adam Cuthbertson. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.Adam Cuthbertson. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Adam Cuthbertson. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Appointed in 2011, the former Royal Marine won the Grand Final on another two occasions, the Challenge Cup once more and a World Club Challenge, making him the most successful coach in Leeds’ history.

Eleven of Rhinos' initial squad for their fifth game of the year were coached by McDermott.

Toronto are bottom of the table, without a point from five rounds, but won their only previous meeting with Rhinos, in the 2018 middle-eights.

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A win by four points or more would take Rhinos top of the table and Cuthbertson predicted: “It will be interesting, it will be good for him to have a hit-out with his new team at Emerald Headingley, where he coached for so many years and had such success.

Brian McDermott. Picture by Steve Riding.Brian McDermott. Picture by Steve Riding.
Brian McDermott. Picture by Steve Riding.

“It will be a good challenge for us and for him as well.

“What he did for this club was absolutely unreal, he led the club to many Grand Finals wins and wins at Wembley and he did it for a number of years, consistently. He deserves a warm welcome coming home.”

On form, Rhinos will be strong favourites. They crushed Warrington Wolves 36-0 last Friday, the day before Toronto were beaten 32-0 at St Helens.

But Cuthbertson warned: “It is a tricky one, I think they are going to throw the kitchen sink at us.

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“The last time we played against them wasn’t great, going down by a point, so it will be big for both clubs, but hopefully we can put on a good performance and walk away with the two.”

Rhinos are on their joint-best winning run, three matches, since McDermott left the club. Cuthbertson, though, insisted nobody in the camp is getting carried away.

“It is a long, long season in Super League,” he said. “Although we played really great last week, the challenge now is to step up to the plate again and put in another good performance and become a consistent team.”

Rhinos have gone three halves of rugby without conceding a point, but Toronto play an unstructured style which is difficult to plan for.

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Cuthbertson added: “Mac’s teams have a different game plan for different opposition every week. You never get the same thing out of his teams so we are going to have to come prepared for anything.”

Cuthbertson, 35, has been a substitute in Rhinos’ four games this year. He said: “That’s not something I’ve been used to - and I haven’t tried to get used to - but for me it’s just about doing my bit for the team and trying to be as effective as I can, regardless of whether it’s starting, off the bench, whatever.

“The first couple of weeks it took me a while to find my feet, but I am starting to get a bit of a rhythm now.

“I am starting to enjoy my role now, which makes it a lot easier - when you start enjoying it, understanding it a bit more and creating a few combinations.

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“That’s the thing with me, it has always been about enjoying myself and enjoying the game. I have always played the game how I see it and I can be quite passionate about being a rugby league traditionalist; so as long as I am enjoying it and we are creating those good combinations and working effectively together, it’s great for me.”

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