Rugby League Expert & Columnist @RLBarrieMc10
David Furner's Leeds Rhinos departure saddens Barrie McDermott
Last Updated: 08/05/19 5:23pm
Barrie McDermott is saddened that former team-mate David Furner's time as head coach at Leeds Rhinos has come to a premature end after so many high hopes ahead of the 2019 Super League season.
Furner, who was a Grand Final winner with the Rhinos as a player in 2004, was unveiled as Brian McDermott's permanent successor six months ago after signing a three-year contract with the club, ticking all of the boxes for chief executive Gary Hetherington and director of rugby Kevin Sinfield.
But last Friday's 28-16 defeat away to Salford Red Devils, which left Leeds 10th in the table with just four wins from 14 Super League games this year, proved to be the former Canberra Raiders head coach's final act in charge.
Sky Sports rugby league expert McDermott - who made 283 appearances for the Rhinos between 1995 and 2005 - admitted results have not been good enough, but was still left despondent it has not worked out for his friend and former colleague.
"My initial thought is one of sadness," McDermott said. "Having played with Dave Furner and spoken to him a number of times since he came back, I know he was desperate to make this work.
"But I also know the people involved, the management, were desperate to make this work because he fitted all the criteria - ex-player, understood the club, and understood the expectations.
"They're in 10th, their league position isn't good enough, and they've won four and lost 10, which by the Rhinos' standards is not where they want to be, so I'm a little bit sad it hasn't worked out.
"I know everyone involved wanted it to work, but the facts are there for all to see."
Furner joined the Rhinos at a time of rebuilding both on and off the field, with the club investing £45m in redeveloping their Headingley home - something which brings its own expectations.
In recent seasons, however, Leeds have seen key members of their all-conquering teams like Jamie Peacock, Kylie Leuluai, Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire and Ryan Hall either retire or move on to pastures new.
Kevin Sinfield has since taken up his off-field role at the club, while Burrow is now charged with bringing through the next generation as U19 coach.
However, replacing that experience on the field to help home-grown talents like Brad Singleton, Stevie Ward, Liam Suttclife, not to mention very young players like Harry Newman and Jack Walker learning how to wear the Rhinos shirt in the correct manner, takes time.
So with that being the case, the question then arises as to whether Leeds have acted too soon in dispensing with Furner?
"The people involved know the exact reasons for what seems like a sharp decision made over the weekend, but from watching the game on Friday it was nowhere near where Leeds should be," McDermott said.
"Salford are a great side and this is no disrespect to them, but the Leeds Rhinos team should be turning up there and coming away with two points as a minimum, and should be putting in a better performance even if they don't get a result. They got neither of those.
"The timing of it, only time will tell if it's right. There are some big questions and a lot of the answers will become evident over the next few weeks."
Leeds' head of coach and player development Richard Agar has stepped in to take charge on an interim basis, starting with Saturday's Challenge Cup sixth-round tie away to old rivals Bradford Bulls and the Super League home game with Castleford Tigers five days later.
The latter of those is set to be played in front of a capacity crowd as it marks the official opening of Headingley's redeveloped North Stand and McDermott expects the Rhinos supporters to get behind the team as they bid to kick-start their stuttering season.
"The one thing you know when you're involved at Leeds Rhinos is the fans are very good judges, and they're a loyal fanbase, but on saying that you're expected to deliver," McDermott added.
"I'd imagine the fans will get behind the team, the players, the current coaching and management staff, and they'll get through this tough, testing period together.
"That's the Leeds fanbase, but that loyalty needs to be rewarded with some success, some good results and some good performances. It's a time where the club and the fans need to stick together."