DANNY McGUIRE says British rugby league needs a “revamp” but, crucially, believes changes at the top could imminently see that now begin to happen.
The former Great Britain stand-off won every honour in the game with hometown Leeds Rhinos, including eight Super League Grand Finals, before moving to Hull KR in the winter.
Like many, though, McGuire believes the sport is not maximising its potential.
Changes are afoot, however, with RFL chief executive Nigel Wood stepping down last week and Roger Draper, the RFL chief commercial officer and Super League executive director, announcing on Tuesday he, too, will leave at the end of the month.
Furthermore, Wood had already left the Super League board of directors late last year after the 12 top-flight clubs ratified changes which essentially led to them each having their own nominee appointed instead.
All of which suggests clubs will now have a greater say on their own direction while, of course, the RFL is seeking at least two new key appointments.
We need some young, fresh ideas in there to really take the game forward. We have a really good product don’t we?Danny McGuire
As Super League’s greatest try-scorer and one of the finest players of his generation, McGuire admits he is hopeful there can now be significant changes to ensure the sport gets the promotion and investment it deserves.
“There’s quite a lot of things I’d like to see change and, in my opinion, the game needs a revamp,” said the 35-year-old at newly-promoted Hull KR’s media season launch yesterday.
“We need some young, fresh ideas in there to really take the game forward. We have a really good product don’t we? I think everyone that watches rugby league, if new to the game, loves its excitement and physicality.
“But I’m not sure at times we have the right people in the right places selling it or bringing the right people in. Hopefully that will change. I know currently the players are looking to really come together and set up a proper, strong union which will be good for us. There’s definitely going to be some positive changes in the next few months or year or so and they will hopefully all benefit the sport and the players.
“We want to see the game growing and getting better. Whichever way we can go about that everyone will be behind it.”
Admittedly, McGuire has faced a big change of his own – swapping a lifetime at Headingley and more than 400 games with Leeds for their Yorkshire rivals.
Having captained Rhinos to yet another Grand Final glory in his last appearance in October, he pulled on the Rovers jersey for the first time during Sunday’s friendly against York City Knights.
“It was a bit strange,” conceded McGuire, who signed a two-year deal with Hull KR.
“I’ve always had that blue and amber kit, all the training gear.
“But actually East Leeds, where I played as a kid, wore red and white so it’s gone full circle now to back where I started.
“You get used to it. Rovers have always had a proud history and heritage and I’ve always been one to do the shirt justice. That’s what I’ll be doing. It’s nice coming in and having to prove myself again.
“I knew a few of the lads that I’d played with at Leeds and some others I’d played against but you still have to earn your stripes.
“The big thing for me is always earning the trust of my team-mates and that’s something I’ve been trying to do in these first few months over here.”
Rovers are relishing being back in the top-flight after spending last year in the Championship.
They swept to the League Leaders’ Shield and then earned promotion via the Qualifiers after impressively picking up victories over Super League sides Leigh Centurions and Widnes Vikings.
Nevertheless, many pundits predict they will struggle in 2018 given – aside from McGuire’s eye-catching recruitment – limited transfer activity. But he insisted: “I think it’s about carrying on that momentum built last year; when you get used to winning and playing well it can become a habit.
“When I got here you could tell it was a team that had had a good successful year. They were very tight-knit.
“Everyone understands the challenge. It will be totally different with Super League opposition week in week out but we have some players who have been around – like Nick Scruton, Shaun Lunt and Lee Jewitt – mixed with some young talent.
“If anyone under-estimates us we’ll show teams what we can do. We can definitely surprise a few people this season.”
McGuire is still learning, too, under veteran former Australia boss Tim Sheens.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “He loves to talk and some of the video sessions can last a bit longer than what you are normally used to!
“But he is so knowledgeable. As a player you hang on his every word as everything he says is 99 per cent right.
“Looking a few years down the line if I ever did want to go into coaching, working alongside someone like Tim is obviously brilliant for my development.”