Leeds Rhinos upturn in form just around the corner, claims departing head coach Richard Agar

Agar has stepped down from his role, with assistant coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan taking caretaker charge

Ian Laybourn
Monday 21 March 2022 13:04
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<p>Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar stepped down from the role with the club struggling in the Super League </p>

Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar stepped down from the role with the club struggling in the Super League

Richard Agar says he took a selfless decision to quit his job as Leeds Rhinos head coach and has tipped his successor to turn around their fortunes in time to make a push for honours in 2022.

The 50-year-old Agar, who had been in the job since the sacking of Dave Furner in May 2019, stepped down with immediate effect with the Rhinos third from bottom of Super League after winning just one of their first six matches.

Assistant coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan, alongside Sean Long, will take charge of preparations for Saturday’s Betfred Challenge Cup sixth-round tie against Castleford while the club ponder a permanent replacement.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington says he will take his time and work from a “blank sheet of paper” and Agar expects him to be inundated with applications.

“It’s a great job and the best club I’ve worked at by a country mile,” Agar told a news conference via zoom.

“I’d expect Gary’s phone to be ringing off the hook and I’m sure there will be some great coaches and great people sticking their hands up. It’s going to be a really good job to take on.

“Whether this is misguided or not, I still believe that when this team gets its troops back and finds its feet, there is plenty of time for them to achieve this year.

Whether this is misguided or not, I still believe that when this team gets its troops back and finds its feet, there is plenty of time for them to achieve this year

Richard Agar

“I’m hoping we see a reaction this week. It might take a little bit of pressure off them for starters. We were one in six last year and we ended up a game away from the Grand Final.

“I don’t think the squad is as poor as we’re seeing at the moment. All we’ve got to do is get into the play-offs which at this stage is highly achievable.

“Of course, we’re going to need an upturn in form but I believe that’s just around the corner.”

Agar says he spoke to former director of rugby Kevin Sinfield, as well as Hetherington, over the weekend before making his decision. He did not consult his senior players but does not hold any grudges against them.

Leeds’ assistant coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan will take charge of the side for Saturday’s Challenge Cup tie

“I’m walking out on what I believe is the best job and the best club in the game,” he said. “It hurts and I’m upset and deflated but I feel I’m making a selfless decision for the betterment of the team.

“The bunch of players gave me one of the best days of my life when we won at Wembley but the reality is that I do not feel I have had the required impact on the squad at this time.

“Maybe I’ve taken them as far as I can and they need a new voice and some fresh ideas to help them get out of their poor performances. Maybe these guys need reinvigorating.”

Agar, who will be offered a new role with the club, was working with NRL side St George Illawarra when he got the chance to join Leeds in December 2018 in a newly-created position of head of player development.

However, he stepped into the breach following the departure of Furner and became permanent head coach on a rolling 12-month contract in September 2019.

Richard Agar says it was one of the happiest days of his life when Leeds lifted the Challenge Cup in 2020 (PA Images/Mike Egerton)

The former York, Hull and Wakefield coach guided Leeds to Challenge Cup glory in 2020 but the Rhinos struggled at the start of the last two seasons.

He added: “It’s been put out there that I’m a reluctant coach. That’s not the case. I’ve loved every single minute.

“I’m proud and happy with the job I’ve done but Leeds Rhinos need to be challenging at the top end of the league for trophies and the signs at the moment have not been good.”

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