Rugby League Expert & Columnist @RLBarrieMc10
Last Updated: 06/07/18 3:58pm
For all the criticism he gets, Gary Hetherington has made a bold move to remove Brian McDermott from his role as Leeds coach, and he’s made an equally brave decision in appointing Kevin Sinfield as director of rugby, says Barrie McDermott.
I may not necessarily agree with the timing of McDermott’s departure, but I have no doubt in my mind that the decision to hand Sinfield a role at the club will end up being the right one.
Often coaches fall into two categories; those who impress players with what they know, and those who command respect from players with what they’ve done. Sinfield’s incredible achievements put him in the latter category, but his character – his relentless pursuit of perfection – will ensure that he will quickly close the gap in terms of what he hasn’t yet learned.
I have always said that Kevin was the most manufactured player I ever played alongside. What I mean by that is that he wasn’t gifted in everything he did, but when he identified flaws in his game he would find ways to work at them to improve his all-round ability. I think that trait will serve him well in his new role at the Rhinos.
People look at rugby league and say it’s a physical sport because of all the big hits, and of course it is a physical sport, but it’s far more cerebral than people outside the game fully appreciate.
A large part of being a successful player is being able to tap into your reserves when your body is hurting. Sinfield did that as a player, and he will help people discover their reserves at Leeds – on and off the field.
Sinfield already proved in his time with England that his career as a coach will be equally as successful as his time as a player; helping to guide his country to a World Cup Final that was narrowly lost to an Australian team full of star names.
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What I like about him being involved in the coaching environment is that he has got the humility to admit when he doesn’t know something, and will sit down with someone to learn from them. He’s highly regarded within the game, but it won’t stop him holding his hands up and asking for help when he needs it.
That said, his status within the walls of Leeds Rhinos will mean that everyone will listen when he talks. His role involves a big influence in recruitment as well as assessing the talent already contracted at the club, so he won’t be afraid to have the difficult conversations with personnel – and who better to evaluate what it takes to succeed as a player at Leeds?
He knows the game inside out, has a great rapport with fans and sponsors, and is well liked within the rugby league community. People may say that he hasn’t coached at the top level, but there are other sports who hand big jobs to players without much coaching experience.
Martin Johnson getting the England job in rugby union and Zinedine Zidane taking charge of Real Madrid are high-profile examples, and more recently Steven Gerrard’s appointment at Rangers.
The example of Johnson and Zidane had mixed results – and it remains to be seen what Gerrard will do at Rangers – so I’m not saying that Sinfield’s appointment will guarantees success at the club, but what more can he do?
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He’s achieved everything in the game, and gone out and pursued a Masters Degree in Sports Business to give himself an edge in the boardroom.
Nothing you do in this sport will absolutely guarantee you results, all you can do is put in the work to improve your chances, and in that respect Kevin Sinfield is the right man to lead the way for Leeds Rhinos.
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