AS MUCH as it was never something he expected to be doing when he returned to the UK 10 months ago, the chance to now fully take charge of Leeds Rhinos has left Richard Agar energised and excited.
He has signed a 12-month rolling contract at Emerald Headingley which will be reviewed at the end of 2020, news confirmed at yesterday’s press conference following weeks of speculation.
Granted, accepting the top job at the famous club was clearly not on his agenda when he left his performance role at St George-Illawarra in Wollongong last autumn.
The former Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity head coach initially moved to Rhinos to take up a newly-created head of player and coach development position.
Little would he have known then, that he would now be back in the hot seat.
Still, having taken over on an interim basis in May when Dave Furner was sacked just 14 games into his tenure, Agar has proved to director of rugby Kevin Sinfield that he is the right man to take them forward.
Clearly, helping them stave off the threat of relegation was paramount and that was achieved with seven wins from 14 Super League games.
However, after being involved in such wrought battles in three of the last four seasons, there will now be an expectancy to get Rhinos back to where they are more accustomed: challenging for silverware.
Agar was initially reluctant to be considered for the head coach’s role, especially as Leeds fought the risk of relegation, but, as time moved on, it became apparent from both sides that this was a good fit.
He explained: “I have worked in the game all my life and worked hard.
“The previous two head coach jobs I took I think the rosters were in a really poor state and it was a real job of trying to turn it round. A club of this size, opportunities don’t come around that often, if at all in your career.
“Being a Yorkshireman, I know the size of the club but I think it’s in a good spot.
“I know it has been a difficult couple of years, but I think the turnaround and to get it going better should be really do-able.
“It is a really good opportunity. I have got good relations with the people in the club and the support I have received played a big part in my decision.”
Sinfield admitted he spoke to other coaches but insisted former France chief Agar was the “standout candidate”.
He added: “Richard is smart, has coached internationally and he gets it.
“He understands where our players are at and where our squad is.
“He is the right person for the job. We have worked really well together.
“His understanding and his appreciation of where the team and the squad’s at, what we need to do and what we are trying to build over the next couple of years has been really important.”
It remains to be seen whether Leeds will be able to change much of their playing roster ahead of 2020 but Agar retains a belief he can still get more out of the current squad who have improved under his stewardship.
“I have got a realisation where we are at,” he said, with Rhinos’ final game against Warrington Wolves on Friday.
“I am not saying we are going to be challenging for honours next year, there’s still a lot of hard work to be done.
“But I think we have a good base to build off in terms of the squad. I am quite happy with the squad.
“I think there’s plenty of improvements left, there’s parts of our game it’s crystal clear we need to be better at.
“Some of that can be done in a bit of an off-season fix-up.
“When I came in after 14 rounds I felt we needed to work on ourselves as much as the football side of things.
“By that I mean bringing the group together, understanding effort and team spirit.
“I think we have got all that covered off pretty well now, but I think a pre-season working on some of those areas and those details will be great for this squad and our young players will also benefit from that.
“If this squad doesn’t change, I am pretty confident we can move it forward.
“But, as always, Kevin will be busy behind the scenes and if we can strengthen our squad within the salary cap we’ll look to do it.”
WATCH: Richard Agar and Kevin Sinfield video