LEEDS RHINOS chief executive Gary Hetherington conceded he never “envisaged” sacking head coach Brian McDermott, but says he had to due to the Super League champions’ “critical” state.
The club parted company with the most successful coach in their history yesterday just eight months after he had led them to the fourth Super League title of his eight-year reign.
However, it was an alarming run of seven successive league losses that led Hetherington to make the surprise move as the club slipped perilously close to the bottom four.
Leeds were in a similar position in 2016 when they did fall into the Qualifiers and had to fight to avoid relegation.
Hetherington stood by McDermott then and Rhinos recovered to win at Old Trafford again last year.
However, the chief executive has decided now is the time for change – McDermott did not “agree” – and Hetherington will immediately begin the search for a new head coach.
Explaining the decision, Hetherington said: “In 2016, having taken everything into account, my estimation was our best chance of success in 2017 was the people we already had both in terms of players and coaching and backroom staff.
“To affect a big change then wouldn’t necessarily give us the best chance of being successful.
“(But) at this moment in time we do need to affect a change and to affect that needs a change of direction and refocusing of our senior management.
“There has been a concern – shared by everybody in our club including Brian McDermott, the coaching staff, players, management, fans and sponsors – that our level of performances this season have not been where we’d like them to be.
We had hoped it would be a mutual decision. I have to say Brian is disappointed and it wouldn’t have been his choice.Gary Hetherington
“I have to say at this moment we find ourselves in a critical position, so there is a desperate challenge to improve our position with immediate effect.
“Only time will tell if it’s successful or not. We never envisaged finding ourselves in this position. I met with Brian (on Sunday) having had several discussions with him prior to that.
“This is the outcome and it is a sad day in many ways because we are reflecting on someone who will be remembered forever and has made a major contribution to the success of this club and team.
“We have both always known there would be a day when we’d be talking about his departure.
“We had hoped it would be a mutual decision. I have to say Brian is disappointed and it wouldn’t have been his choice.
“It hasn’t been the perfect departure he’d hoped for and it’s not lost on me this is a traumatic time for Brian himself.”
Castleford Tigers’ Daryl Powell – who coached Leeds between 2001 and 2003 – is the bookmakers’ new favourite to take over although he is contracted at Wheldon Road until 2020 and has spoken before about his desire to deliver a maiden title for Castleford.
Australian Dave Furner, the former Leeds second-row, currently assistant at South Sydney, was the initial favourite and he has also been linked with the vacant Wigan role in 2019.
Hetherington maintained yesterday that he has no successor in place and is open to all options including a domestic or overseas appointment as well as potentially an interim coach until the end of the campaign.
They have slipped to eighth with just four rounds remaining and visit Castleford on Sunday when the remaining coaching set-up of Barry Eaton, Jason Davidson and Chev Walker are likely to be in charge.
McDermott – who could now come into the running for that Wigan job – said: “I am extremely disappointed this has happened and obviously it is not a decision I agree with.
“I wish everyone at the club the best and my thoughts will be with the team on Sunday and through to the end of the season.”
McDermott analysis: Page 16.