Kevin Sinfield MBE has returned to Leeds Rhinos as the club’s first ever Director of Rugby.
Following the departure of Super League’s most successful ever coach this week, chief executive Gary Hetherington has moved fast to fill the vacancy. This morning is has been confirmed that Sinfield steps into the newly created role while James Lowes, who has been working part-time with the club in recent weeks, is the club’s new first team coach.
In a statement, Hetherington admitted that he knew the club has to move fast. “Our challenge at the start of the week was to address the short term problem for the rest of the season and also ideally strengthen our structure for the future,” he expressed. “There were three key areas that were under scrutiny: our senior management structure with myself as Chief Executive for the past 22 years working alongside the head coach on player retention and recruitment, our coaching team with regards our performances, and our players. The appointments today reflect change in two of those three areas.” Hetherington also revealed that some of the duties that were previously assigned to him have now transferred to Sinfield. “Some of my duties have been transferred to Kevin and with the departure of Brian McDermott we have a new look first team coaching set up until the end of the season. Kevin will oversee his first training session this afternoon ahead of Sunday’s Betfred Super League game at Castleford Tigers and we look forward to the start of a new era.”
Sinfield is arguably Leeds’ most loved player in recent memory and, having captained the club through their treble winning season in 2015, is understandably pleased to have returned. “I am delighted and honoured to be offered the chance to return to my club. To follow on from Brian McDermott is a huge challenge but one I am excited about. Brian will be remembered as the most successful coach the club has ever had and his record speaks for itself. I enjoyed playing under him and our task now, as a club, is to take the legacy he has helped to nurture and move it forward with a new generation of players,” he said. Indeed, that campaign was his final one and, in the film As Good As It Gets, there was the suggestion that he didn’t necessarily agree with the way McDermott went about his business in charge of the club through that season.
That campaign marked the end of his rugby league playing career with the Grand Final triumph over Wigan his final match in Rhinos colours. Following a short spell in rugby union with Yorkshire Carnegie, Sinfield took up the position of rugby director with the RFL and oversaw a new focus on international rugby throughout all levels of the game in this country. He was also a key part of the World Cup management team that took England back to the World Cup Final last December.
Now, however, the appointment at Leeds of Sinfield is sure to give a boost to players and fans alike and it is likely that the team will come out with a point to prove in their away trip to Castleford this Sunday. Huddersfield’s victory over Hull FC last night saw Leeds drop out of the top eight and it will be the first goal of the new coaching setup to ensure the team finish the regular season outside of The Qualifiers. If that happened, it would then give the group seven games to begin preparations for next season, a top four spot being highly unlikely.
Recruitment is something which Sinfield will be charged with looking at and, with the Rhinos one of very few clubs to have not yet announced any new additions for 2019, fans will be keen to see the impact the club legend has in that area.