NEW Leeds Rhinos head coach David Furner hopes to sign two more “world-class” players as he begins the rebuild job at the fallen Super League champions – but is also ready to place faith in the club’s burgeoning youngsters.
The Australian, 47, held his first press conference at Emerald Headingley yesterday just hours after arriving in the UK.
Furner was appointed on a three-year contract in September to replace the sacked Brian McDermott, tasked with returning Leeds to the good times after twice falling into the bottom four in the last three years.
The West Yorkshire club has already recruited Tonga star Konrad Hurrell from the NRL as a ‘marquee’ signing plus his international team-mate Tuimoala Lolohea.
However, in a move which will please fans, the club’s director of rugby Kevin Sinfield said they do hope to soon announce a second ‘marquee’ player signing.
Furthermore, Furner – who won the 2004 Grand Final with Leeds before retiring – confirmed they have been in talks with Australia international Trent Merrin, the Penrith Panthers and New South Wales State of Origin prop. Furner said: “There’s interest. And I think there’s interest on both sides.
I was fortunate enough to play here for two years, which was a privilege, and I remember finishing off with a Grand Final, so the decision (to join) wasn’t a hard one.Dave Furner
“But there’s no contract been signed – though there’s obviously been talks.
“We’re looking at bringing in world-class players if we can. That’s our aim.
“Probably two to help the kids come through here but it’s a philosophy of mine they have got to be good people as well, on and off the field, not just good players.”
Former Canberra Raiders coach Furner has been South Sydney assistant for the last two years having also been an assistant at North Queensland Cowboys when they won the 2015 NRL Grand Final.
“It is exciting coming back here and getting this opportunity,” he added.
“It’s been five years since I’ve been a head coach and getting the chance to do it again at a club like Leeds – which has been so successful – is exciting.
“I was fortunate enough to play here for two years, which was a privilege, and I remember finishing off with a Grand Final, so the decision (to join) wasn’t a hard one.
“I’ve seen the academy side being involved in that Grand Final, narrowly losing against Wigan.
“They’ve always had those juniors at Leeds.
“I’ve been involved in a club (Canberra) before in the NRL where I blooded a lot of juniors through.
“I’m not scared to.
“If it’s part of the rebuild or best for the club I’ll make that decision.
“But certainly with the younger crop coming through we have some really good depth plus some really good senior payers and a couple of new signings there with Tui and Konrad which is exciting.”
Meanwhile, Sinfield added some current players could yet leave in the off-season but confirmed 37-year-old second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan will play on in 2019 and commences pre-season training with his team-mates on Monday.
Super League fixtures for all Yorkshire’s clubs: Page 23