Ranking every Leeds Rhinos head coach in the Super League era

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com - 10/10/2015 - Rugby League - First Utility Super League Grand Final - Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors - Old Trafford, Manchester, England - Leeds' Brian McDermott.

In April, Rohan Smith became the 10th man to be appointed Leeds Rhinos head coach since Super League began in 1996.

Across the 27 years of the summer era competition, the Rhinos have had many highs and lows under various coaches and we have gone to the trouble of ranking all of them from worst to best.

As Rohan is very new into the job, he is exempt from the list.

9. Dave Furner (November 2018 – May 2019)

To be fair to Furner, he inherited a dejected club, with an angry and disappointed fan base. However, Leeds did not do well under him. Fluke wins saved the club from relegation. Grand Finals became a distant memory. In the long run, well actually short, he was given his marching orders.

Rating: 3/10

8. Dean Lance (November 1999 – April 2001)

Following the success of Graham Murray, Dean Lance was somewhat of a let down. Leeds didn’t achieve anything spectacular under his stewardship apart from a bag of mixed results. In the end, the poor form led to his departure as coach by “mutual agreement”. I think we all really know what that means.

Rating: 3/10

7. Daryl Powell (April 2001 – October 2003)

Daryl Powell was a player coach. Being a great player doesn’t always translate to greatness as a coach, but Powell gave it a good go at a young age. The player debuts he brought to the team are a particular standout as he was never afraid to blood the youth. Small names such as Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire to name but a few. Unfortunately, the team’s inability to win big games during his tenure led to his exit.

Rating: 5/10

6. Dean Bell (September 1995 – September 1997)

Dean Bell was the first Super League coach for Leeds Rhinos. It was a very difficult start for Bell, with the team winning only six games in the 1996 season in a frantic relegation battle. Things turned around in the second campaign though as the team won twice as many games to finish 5th, with Bell developing a fresh new style of play that was built around club-record signing Iestyn Harris.

Rating: 6/10

5. Graham Murray (December 1997 – October 1999)

Following Bell’s departure, Graham Murray built on the style that was beginning to emerge at Leeds. Under his coaching, the team reached the inaugural Grand Final against Wigan in 1998. Although the team lost at Old Trafford (10-4), it was a step in the right direction. Leeds’ first silverware as the Rhinos came from the Challenge Cup victory against London in the last final at the old Wembley in 1999. Leeds Rhinos’ fans started to believe that this was a special club under the late great Murray.

Rating: 7/10

4. Brian McClennan (November 2007 – October 2010)

After Tony Smith stepped down, Kiwi head coach Brian McClennan came in. The club continued its success under him with back-to-back Grand Final wins against St Helens. Many Leeds fans got used to winning so it came as a shock when 2010 brought no trophies, with the team losing in the Challenge Cup final to Warrington. McClennan subsequently stepped aside to allow Brian McDermott to take over a year earlier than planned, but the New Zealander’s impact can’t be overlooked, as he superbly built on what Tony Smith left.

Rating: 7/10

3. Richard Agar (June 2019 – March 2022)

After David Furner departed, Agar was brought in on an interim basis. His task was to guide the team away from relegation and rebuild, rebuild, rebuild. A lot of fans were unsure on Agar and under his reign the team certainly lacked consistency. That being said, he did lead Leeds to an unlikely Challenge Cup triumph in 2020, with a stunning win over Wigan in the semi finals. To say Agar was given a tough time at Headingley is an understatement. He guided the club through the pandemic and faced challenging player personalities. If we’re honest, Agar thrived when his back was against the wall, when expectation grew at the start of 2022 following several big-name signings, he struggled and was relieved of his duties after a poor start to the season.

Rating: 7/10

2. Tony Smith (November 2003 – October 2007)

Tony Smith was definitely a fan favourite at Headingley. He solidified Leeds’ style and led the club into the Golden Era. Under Smith the team won its first Grand Final. Leeds became the high flying club of their former past and attracted some star players. The Australian made the Rhinos winners, as the club became internationally recognised after a famous World Club Challenge victory over the Caterbury Bulldogs at Elland Road. He departed at the end of 2007 to take over as England head coach, but in hindsight he may have been better staying at Leeds, a club where he is still loved and adored to this day.

Rating: 8/10

1. Brian McDermott (November 2010 – July 2018)

Brian McDermott. A clear players favourite. Listen to the out of their league podcast with Jamie Peacock, and it is clear to see that the players thrived under him. League form was always hit and miss under ‘Mac’, but in the big games he made his team unbeatable. It resulted in two Grand Final wins from fifth (2011 & 2012) as well as a memorable drought-ending Challenge Cup final win over Castleford at Wembley in 2014. Then along came the 2015 season, one Leeds fans will never forget. Challenge Cup? Won. League Leaders Shield? Won. Grand Final? Won. What a send-off for some of the club’s legends, and no mean feat. With such charismatic players leaving there was always going to be a blip and 2016 saw the club struggle. However, the 2017 season ended with a sensational Grand Final, with Leeds dominating league leaders Castleford at Old Trafford to claim another title, a fitting farewell to two more legends – Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow. Again Leeds struggled after having such players leave and the cracks began to show, with McDermott sensationally sacked in 2018. Despite this, he remains the club’s most successful ever coach.

Rating: 8/10

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