Former Hull FC coach Lee Radford aiming to crack the code with Dallas Jackals of Major League Rugby

WHEN you ask Lee Radford who he has been speaking to about the intricacies of rugby union, in preparation to start work as Dallas Jackals defence coach, the answer resembles a Who’s Who? of rugby league royalty.

Move delayed: Lee Radford.

The charismatic former Hull FC chief, who won the Challenge Cup twice when in charge of his home-town club and lifted all major trophies as a player with Bradford Bulls, should really be in America now in the thick of the new franchise’s debut Major League Rugby campaign.

However, their introduction to the competition has been delayed until 2022 due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic so he remains in East Yorkshire.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

That said, Radford – who turns 42 tomorrow – has not been sat twiddling his thumbs with his suitcase packed ahead of his rescheduled departure date of September.

Advice: Sean Long.

As a relative novice to the 15-man code, as well as regular meetings with the Dallas staff, he has been spending his own time developing his knowledge ready for his move ‘across the pond’ and into a new sport.

Plenty of his peers have crossed codes previously, not least Paul Deacon and Mike Forshaw – team-mates in that brilliant Bulls side that won the treble in 2003 – who are now at Sale Sharks and his former Hull team-mate Martin Gleeson, the Great Britain centre who is excelling for Wasps as attack coach.

Radford, whose seven years in charge at Hull came to an end when he was sacked just before lockdown 12 months ago, told The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve spoken to plenty – and I’ve done plenty of Zooming and watched plenty of footage as well.

“I am picking the game up slowly and looking forward to getting back on grass; it’s been a long time since I’ve done that.

Eye-opener: From Wasps head coach Lee Blackett.

“I spent a week with Glees at Wasps. I thought their facilities were top drawer.

“But speaking to their head coach, Lee Blackett, he said they’re the worst in the Premiership and that’s why they’re in the process of moving! It shows the difference.

“I’ve met Longy (Leeds Rhinos assistant Sean Long) a couple of times and picked his brains.

“He’s been really helpful after being at Quins as has Clive Griffiths, who, obviously, was at Doncaster Knights.

“I went to see Deacs and Forsh at Sale and got in touch with (former Warrington hooker) Jon Clarke, who is with England now and living the dream as their head of strength and conditioning.

“I had a Zoom call as well with England’s defence coach John Mitchell.

“I also spoke to (France defence coach) Shaun Edwards a couple of weeks ago so I’ve been a bit of a nuisance really!

“It has been good. The ex-rugby league fraternity have been really helpful which is great.”

Radford was appointed by Dallas last June and was due to move out there in November before the decision was made to postpone the club’s maiden campaign.

For a flavour of what awaits him, though, the season started on Saturday with Rugby United New York defeating San Diego Legion 36-29, New England Free Jacks losing 42-27 at home to LA Giltinis and Atlanata’s Rugby ATL winning 21-14 at Toronto Arrows.

Explaining the decision to opt out, Radford said: “Financially, it’d be too much of a risk to join the league this year with all the protocols that are in place.

“If you get three of your top squad test positive with Covid, your fixture is suspended.

“Obviously, if every away game is a flight, it can become quite costly and there’s fans to think about, too.

“But I’m looking forward to it in 2022. Hopefully, fans are back in the stands as well by then.

“Just looking at the stadium we play in, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen; it holds something like 70,000.

“Obviously, we’re not going to get those sorts of crowds but to play in that facility is going to be special.

“They don’t do anything in half measures over there.”

With the new Super League season set to start tomorrow, Radford has gleaned positives from the added time being at home.

“Postponing for a year might have been a blessing in disguise,” he explained.

“I’ve had 12 months off and missed everything with the Covid protocols.

“Speaking to one or two blokes around Super League, it is doing their heads in at the moment.

“The fact that there’s limited time training as a whole group and testing every other day, it is starting to frustrate some of them and it is bound to isn’t it?

“It’s a case of take a test and then go sit in your car while even if you’ve got a cold you’re automatically sent home and you don’t get a green light until a couple of days or even the day before you play.

“We had that a couple of times last year (at Hull).

“It’s not great preparation but it’s elite sport, and I understand, it has to be done.

“With Dallas, pre-season will start around the end of September/start of October.

“This pre-season for 2021 was going to be a almost a boot-camp style six-week pre-season. That would have been difficult, especially for me learning the game as well.

“Whereas hopefully this time around we can have a longer than normal pre-season which would be great for me.”

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive membiers-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.