KEVIN SINFIELD, one of Headingley’s favourite sons, achieved everything possible in the domestic game during a glittering, record-breaking career and an era of unprecedented success for Leeds Rhinos.
That was then, but now he is wrestling with an entirely new challenge – restoring the club’s playing fortunes as director of rugby in a role he took up last July.
It is a big task for a 38-year-old who only hung up his rugby league boots four years ago – though he had a one-season stint in union – and has limited behind-the-scenes experience with the Rugby Football League and England.
However, Sinfield’s on-field leadership was exemplary and, though he has a wider task now, changes are being made that he believes will reap long-term rewards.
Sinfield’s first days back at Leeds were difficult ones as the team battled against relegation in the 2018 Super-8s Qualifiers, eventually only avoiding the ‘million pound game’ on points difference.
Since then he has settled into the real meat of his job, overhauling the entire rugby operation.
Under Sinfield, Leeds have appointed former player Dave Furner as coach, revamped their coaching and backroom staff, brought in five new faces and seen several others leave.
The eight-time Super League champions are in transition following a golden era and it has been far from plain sailing, but the former Rhinos captain is confident they will get there in time.
Reflecting on his spell back at Leeds, Sinfield stressed: “I am enjoying bits of it, where we are making progress.
“Initially it was about getting results at the back end of last season so a lot of the stuff we wanted to implement had to be put on the backburner.
The pair of us believe in what we are doing and I 100 per cent believe in him. I am confident we will get it right, but it will take some time.Kevin Sinfield
“We started with some cultural stuff that we were able to make an impact on straight away, but there’s been quite a lot of change with the staff members, a number of changes with playing personnel and in how we go about our day-to-day stuff.
“I think people thought perhaps results would be instantaneous, but it is going to take some time, like anything when it requires a fair bit of change.”
This point was hammered home at HJ Stadium last weekend when Leeds were taken apart 26-6 by Warrington Wolves in Super League round one.
Sinfield feels at least the team have been shown how far they need to go to get back to competing at the top end of the table.
He admitted: “There is a fair bit of disappointment with Saturday’s game and how we played.
“They (Warrington) were very good for a 20-minute spell when they scored 20 points.
“If you look at their playing roster you could argue it is the best currently out there in Super League, so it is a really good indicator for us.
“We are still really, really positive. There’s loads for us to work on and I am under no illusions how big this job is.
“I wasn’t when I came back, either, and I think if this job wasn’t what it was, if we didn’t have so many things that need to be changed and altered, I wouldn’t be back here and I don’t think Dave would have been here either.
“The pair of us believe in what we are doing and I 100 per cent believe in him.
“I am confident we will get it right, but it will take some time.”
As director of rugby, Sinfield oversees all the departments related to playing performance, but is not directly involved in coaching the team.
Defining his role, he said: “In other sports I think you’d term what I am doing as a sporting director.
“You make sure the different performance departments are working like they should and all talking to each other and you get the best possible people in each role and you help make some of the decisions in those areas.
“There’s a lot of big-picture thinking and a lot of rugby strategy stuff to give us a plan for the next five years so we actually understand what we are about and what our objectives are.”