Gary Hetherington: Leeds Rhinos do not have ‘coaching problem’ | Richard Agar: I’m leaving ‘best job’ in RL | Rugby League News

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington admitted it was difficult to pinpoint why the Rhinos have struggled early in the 2022 Betfred Super League season, but did not believe it was because of anything the coaching staff were doing wrong

Last Updated: 21/03/22 2:25 pm

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington admitted it was difficult to pinpoint the reasons behind the team's slow star

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington admitted it was difficult to pinpoint the reasons behind the team’s slow star

Gary Hetherington places no blame on Richard Agar for Leeds Rhinos’ early-season struggles after the head coach took the decision to step down from the Betfred Super League club.

Agar’s decision was announced on Monday morning, with the Rhinos sitting 10th in the table with just one win to their name following the 26-12 defeat away to Salford Red Devils last Friday.

Chief executive Hetherington is in no doubt Leeds have a squad capable of turning around their season after a tough start, but admitted it was difficult to put his finger on reasons for their early-season malaise and does not believe the blame lays with the coaching staff .

“Normally when a team has lost five or six games you can pinpoint specific reasons,” Hetherington said.

“It’s much more difficult to do that in this situation because Richard has done a terrific job as head coach from where we were three years ago to where we are today, and I do not believe we have a coaching problem.

“I think the team are extremely well prepared and, going into every game, the players will tell you it’s been professional, and no stone has been left unturned.

“Of course, results and performances are what coaches define themselves on and Richard has taken this decision and, in many ways, put the club before himself. We are only six games into the season, which is a pretty short spell, and we had pretty high expectations of ourselves at the outset. “

Richard has done a terrific job as head coach from where we were three years ago to where we are today, and I do not believe we have a coaching problem.

Gary Hetherington on Richard Agar

Former Leeds forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan steps up as Agar’s replacement on an interim basis, assisted by fellow coach Sean Long and performance director Richard Hunwicks, with their first game in charge being Saturday’s Betfred Challenge Cup sixth-round clash at home to Castleford Tigers.

How long Jones-Buchanan stays in the role and whether he will earn it on a permanent basis remains to be seen, but Hetherington has backed the man who was part of seven Super League Grand Final-winning Rhinos teams to excel, and insists there will be no rush to appoint Agar’s eventual successor.

“We’ve got a very strong squad and a very strong support staff,” Hetherington said. “Jamie will assume those responsibilities as interim head coach and I do not know for how long.

“But I’m pretty sure he has got the personality and character to make a difference and we’ve got a strong squad, so results are capable of being turned around.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan has taken over as Leeds' interim head coach

Jamie Jones-Buchanan has taken over as Leeds’ interim head coach

“Jamie has now got an opportunity along with his coaching staff and it will be interesting to see how Jamie goes. I think he’ll go extremely well, and the most important thing is the identification of the next head coach, whoever that may be .

“It’s a big decision to the club to make and not one we’ll rush into, and it will be quite an exhaustive process.”

Agar: Hard decision to leave “the best job” in RL

Speaking on a media call following the announcement, Agar revealed he felt a fresh voice was needed to get through to the players in the Leeds squad.

The former Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity head coach’s three-year reign at Headingley delivered Challenge Cup glory in 2020 and saw the Rhinos make the Super League play-offs both that season and in 2021, the latter seeing them lose to eventual champions St Helens in the semi-finals.

Richard Agar guided Leeds to the Challenge Cup in 2020

Richard Agar guided Leeds to the Challenge Cup in 2020

But Agar felt now was the right time to move on and he revealed how it had been a difficult decision to leave what he believes is the best job and the best club in rugby league.

“As I have done, being in the game from four or five years old to getting to a place where you get an opportunity to coach Leeds Rhinos is an honor and a privilege, and one I absolutely relished,” Agar said.

“That makes it even harder because I’m walking out on what I believe is the best job and the best club in the game, but I’ve always tried to make the right decisions too. The squad is trying really hard, the senior players have been great, but the first place I always look is myself.

“I reflected on the three years and where we’re at now, and felt perhaps my messages just plain and simply aren’t getting home in a strong enough fashion – and that tells me everything I need to know that maybe these guys need reinvigorating and need a different voice. “