Fearless prop primed to explode

Rugby league
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The Independent Online
BRINGING players across the Pennines from Wigan is a routine of which Leeds never tire. The latest is Barrie McDermott, who has the virtue of potentially having his best years ahead of him.

Although he is a knock-'em-down-drag-'em-out prop forward of the old school, Mc- Dermott, who is in line to make his debut against the London Broncos at Brentford tonight, is only 23. "I have no doubts that he has the ability to be the leading prop in Britain," said Dean Bell, the new Leeds coach, of his first signing for the club.

McDermott first came to his notice in one of Bell's last matches for Wigan, at the end of the 1993-94 season. Wigan needed to beat Oldham to win the Championship and they duly did so, but not before McDermott had shown himself willing to take on their entire pack single-handed.

The one-eyed front-rower virtually sold himself to Wigan that day and made an instant impact with his new club last season. Within a few weeks he was in Great Britain's team against Australia and, although injury ruined the latter half of his season, he made an impression on his team- mates.

One of them, Denis Betts, recommended McDermott to Bell whilst they were both at the Auckland Warriors, and last week, when Wigan put him on the transfer list, Bell acted.

At pounds 100,000 or pounds 115,000, depending on which club you believe, it could be an expensive gamble. McDermott is an explosive player but an undisciplined one, hot-headed both on and off the pitch.

They used to say the same thing about Bell, though, and for a player who can be as destructive as McDermott, it is a risk worth taking. "It is one thing that has never changed in this game," Bell said. "Matches are won up front and that is why a player like Barrie is valuable."

With Neil Harmon starting the season in perhaps the best form of his career, young Nick Fozzard emerging as a genuine prospect and Esene Faimalo, George Mann and Harvey Howard all capable of filling a prop's shirt, it seems that at least one department that has sometimes been neglected at Leeds is well staffed.