Leeds Rhinos’ director of rugby Kevin Sinfield has announced the “start of a new era” following a number of key changes to the club’s backroom staff - and a new coach education department.
Having reviewed its rugby department since returning to Emerald Headingley in July, the former captain has devised the blueprint for their planned return to glory.
Defending champions Leeds faced the threat of relegation for the second time in three years when slumping into the Qualifiers this season, resulting in the demise of Brian McDermott, the head coach who had led them to five Super League titles.
Rhinos legend Sinfield was tasked with leading the revival and he now has his team in place.
With new head coach Dave Furner already appointed, Sinfield has confirmed James Lowes and Chev Walker will continue on the coaching staff in 2019.
However, Chris Black will re-join the Rhinos as head of physical performance from the RFL, where he is part of Wayne Bennett’s England backroom team.
Head of athletic performance Jason Davidson, who has been with Leeds since 2005, will take on a new role as team manager in charge of all logistical operations for the side.
After head of physiotherapy Andy Barker left to join the FA, Rhinos have appointed Yorkshire Carnegie physio Alex Morrell to work alongside Gareth Robinson.
But, significantly, Sinfield has also decided to set up a new department which will be led by a head of player and coach development, who is still yet to be appointed.
They will oversee a number of areas including a new coach education department led by Barry Eaton - an assistant coach under McDermott - that will focus on developing community coaching in Leeds as well as developing the club’s own young coaches.
In addition, there will be a Junior Player Pathway department that focuses on developing and attracting new talent to the game of Rugby League which will aid the Scholarship and Academy departments by increasing the player pool available at junior level.
Rob Burrow will continue as Rhinos Under 19s coach while the professional rugby department will now incorporate the Leeds Rhinos Womens team, which this season was operated by the Leeds Rhinos Foundation.
Leon Crick will become a full-time manager for the Womens team for 2019 as they look to build on their impressive debut campaign this year.
Sinfield said: “These new appointments represent the start of a new era and direction at Leeds Rhinos.
“We are delighted to secure three crucial positions for 2019 in a new Head Coach, Head Physio and Head of Physical Performance for the first team.
“Leeds Rhinos is a huge organisation, and the first-team squad and their performances are firmly at the top of that pyramid.
“When I returned to the club, we spoke about reviewing our entire operation at the end of the season and that is something that has taken time and a great deal of consideration to make sure we have the right structure in place to take the club forward and make us stronger.
“For many years, we had one of the leanest backroom teams in the game but there comes a time when we need to expand to remain competitive in the ever changing modern game.
“I would like to thank the Board of Directors for taking on board my recommendations and I am sure this structure will give us the competitive edge we need to challenge for honours again.”
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington added: “Firstly, I would like to thank Kevin for the painstaking work he has done on the structure since his return to the club.
“He has reviewed our entire operation and identified areas where we need to strengthen and add additional resource.
“We have been a highly successful club for a number of years and much of that has been down to the outstanding dedication and commitment of our backroom team.
“Our challenge now is to build on that work and allow everyone to fulfil their potential. An example of that is our focus on coach development.
“Two decades ago, we gave a group of talented young players the tools to create our most successful team.
“Likewise now we must support those young coaches to reach new goals as coaches and take our club forward.
“The Board of Directors fully support Kevin’s vision for the future and have committed to back that with the investment required.”