Yesterday, Leeds lost their sixth game of the season in just seven matches equalling their worst start to a season in the summer era having boasted the same record in 2019.
That season Leeds parted company with David Furner appointing Richard Agar mid-season whilst this campaign Agar’s time as Head Coach has come to an end having stepped down after the defeat to Salford.
However, the coaching change didn’t effect the result on the pitch yesterday with the Rhinos downed by Castleford in the Challenge Cup by 40-16 after a disastrous first 40 in which they trailed 28-0.
The loss highlighted the need for a new vision at Headingley despite how well Jamie Jones-Buchanan spoke after the game. Clearly the right man for right now and to improve attitudes in the squad and change the “habitual” and “cultural” problems he referenced last night, but beyond that it’s clear that Leeds’ star-studded squad needs a new coaching philosophy that can get the best out of them.
However, time is not on their side. Now out of the cup and 10th in the league, any hope of silverware in 2022 has gone and a relegation battle is now looking likely. Leeds don’t have time to find the right appointment and instead may need to make a necessary appointment.
As with Agar in 2019, Leeds may need an experienced head used to these kind of situations who can guide Leeds to results to steer them away from the bottom of the league but in the long term, this is the last thing Leeds need.
In transition since 2017, the Rhinos haven’t had a coaching philosophy to guide them towards a new identity and more success. Initially, Leeds trusted in Brian McDermott to guide them to more silverware but it soon became clear that a change of direction was needed and David Furner was brought in but sure enough the new direction had Leeds floundering at the bottom and in order to survive they needed to put their faith in an experienced head in the shape of Agar who steadied the ship and even won the Challenge Cup.
However, Agar’s rolling contract highlighted that he was a temporary fix and Leeds’ decision at the end of 2021 to look for a new coach confirmed that but an inability to find a long term coach and a new direction has seen Leeds struggle at the start of the season with some star players not playing to their potential perhaps due to there being no clear philosophy behind the club as there is at the likes of St Helens and Catalans.
So, a long term appointment with a plan for the future is certainly needed especially with the number of young stars Leeds have at their disposal. Whether this appointment comes in the shape of Tony Smith, Ryan Carr, Danny Ward or someone else remains to be seen.
It has been rumoured that Leeds want a coach for two years before trusting former skipper and star player Danny McGuire as Head Coach from 2024 onwards. This is perhaps playing with fire understanding that with Agar in charge as a temporary fix has left Leeds in a hole at the start of this season. Could a similar appointment have the same effect at Headingley?
But even if this is the way forward, the Rhinos cannot escape the here and now. Before they can look at coaching philosophy, identity, direction and returning to success, the Rhinos need to simply get result and pull away from 12th position.
So, who is the man to get Leeds out of a hole and will they be the long term solution or just a short term fix.