Leeds have leadership problem & need experienced coach, says ex-Rhino

Jamie Jones-Buchanan Leeds Rhinos SWpix
Photo: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix

Leeds have a leadership problem but the club will not get relegated despite their “sad” plight, according to former superstar centre Kallum Watkins.

The Rhinos are without a coach following the resignation of Richard Agar and have won just once all season as they prepare for the visit of champions St Helens on Friday.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan remains in temporary charge alongside Sean Long. 

And Salford centre Watkins, who won six Grand Finals with Leeds, has told Love Rugby League where the real issues at Headingley lie and what kind of coach should now take over.

He said: “Last week I was on Sky watching the Salford-Leeds game and you could tell there was something going on there that was not right. 

“That is sad. I know I have been part of times where it hasn’t been great and where we have been put under a big amount of pressure.

“Leeds is a club that is renowned for winning stuff and being consistent in performance. The crowd do get on top of you when things don’t go well.

“In terms of the issues that need fixing I think it is a leadership problem. The senior players that we had and that I looked up to helped a lot with the situations we got into.

“Nothing was ever perfect but it was always a journey towards that. And the senior players would always turn up and always come up with the right things to say. 

“I just don’t think that Leeds have got that right now. Or they haven’t got enough of that right now. The confidence is low for that team and they are under a lot of pressure.”

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Who is the one to take Leeds forward?

Watkins remains good friends with his former Leeds team-mates, including Hull KR assistant coach Danny McGuire who has been linked with the role. Indeed KR coach Tony Smith has also been linked with a Rhinos return. However, Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington is heading out to Australia to conduct his search.

“Who knows who comes in next,” adds Watkins.

“I know Jamie Jones is doing it now. It’s probably a situation that he didn’t see coming for him to take over. I know he will do a really good job with those boys even though he didn’t seem to get a reaction in the Cup at the weekend. 

“He needs a bit more time for himself to get his mindset over to the players as he has a really good mindset in terms of winning and what the club is about. They’ll need a big response against Saints.”

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Kallum Watkins: I really don’t see Leeds getting relegated

Watkins is confident Leeds will overcome their early-season struggles. He insists any crisis talk of relegation is wide of the mark for a club who flirted with the drop in both 2016 and 2018 having won Grand Finals the previous seasons.

He added: “I think they will be okay, I really don’t see them getting relegated.

“I think that depending who they bring in, and I don’t know who that will be or if they are planning to keep Jonesy on, but in my opinion they must bring in someone really experienced to get the best out of these players. But they should keep Jonesy and Sean Long in there.

“They won’t get relegated, they just need to find a spark. It’s going to be hard. They are going to be under a lot of pressure but I feel like the squad that they have got they shouldn’t be in this position. 

“Ultimately, if your top players aren’t performing then it impacts the whole team. And it’s why they are down where they are.”

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