League Express editor MARTYN SADLER pays tribute to Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar on his victory last Saturday in the Coral Challenge Cup Final.
It would be hard to find anyone in Rugby League who had a more varied playing and coaching career than Richard Agar.
As a player, he joined Dewsbury Rams in August 1993 as a 21-year-old stand off from the Featherstone amateur club Travellers Saints.
He joined Rochdale Hornets briefly in 1997 but returned to the Rams the following season and under the coaching of Neil Kelly he made a Northern Ford Premiership Grand Final appearance against Hunslet at Headingley in 1999.
Hunslet won that game, but were denied entry into Super League.
Twelve months later he kicked the last-minute drop-goal for Dewsbury that settled a thrilling 13-12 NFP Grand Final win against Leigh Centurions at Bury’s Gigg Lane ground.
Agar then followed Kelly to Widnes Vikings and helped them win the Grand Final and earn a place in Super League.
But instead of staying on, he stayed in the Championship and spent one season with each of Rochdale and Featherstone Rovers before calling time on his playing career at the end of 2003.
He then moved immediately into coaching, replacing Paul Broadbent as the York coach.
He then spent seven years at Hull FC as an assistant to John Kear and then the Australian Peter Sharp, before being appointed as the head coach in 2008, when he led Hull to a Challenge Cup Final defeat against St Helens.
He left Hull at the end of 2011 to take charge at Wakefield before stepping down in June 2014.
He was appointed coach of France in 2013, and he led the national team to the quarter-finals of the Rugby League World Cup before ending that role in 2015.
In the meantime he joined Warrington Wolves as an assistant to Tony Smith, but then left in late 2017 to head to Australia to work under Ian Millward at the St George Illawarra Dragons.
He returned a year later to join Leeds Rhinos as the club’s new Head of Player and Coach Development.
And when David Furner was ousted as the club’s head coach in 2019, it was Agar to whom the club turned to take on the head-coaching responsibility, first of all on an interim basis, and then permanently.
When you recite everything he’s done in Rugby League, it’s hard to imagine anyone who could bring wider experience to bear on being a Rugby League coach.
I still recall when he was a player, thinking what a smart halfback he was and wondering why he wasn’t operating in Super League.
But I think he understood his own limitations, even as a young bloke.
The same is almost certainly true of his coaching career, which is why he has never been afraid to vary his experience to build up as much knowledge as he could.
But none of that would count for much if he didn’t have an outstanding Rugby League brain.
In the light of the Rhinos’ remarkable victory last Saturday, it seems remarkable that Agar only got the job by being in the right place at the right time.
And now he has emulated his father Allan, who won the Challenge Cup as the coach of Featherstone in 1983.
Allan also had a remarkable rugby brain, combined with a great memory.
Or at least he had a great memory in my case.
I once wrote a critical piece about one of Allan’s team, criticising his selection, if I remember rightly.
A couple of years later I bumped into Allan and he immediately picked me up on what I’d written, even though I’d forgotten about it myself.
Even though I stuck to my guns, I was impressed that Allan should remember what I’d written.
The Agars are a real Rugby League family.
This article is taken from Martyn Sadler’s ‘Talking Rugby League’ column in this week’s issue of League Express. You can take out a subscription to the print or digital version of League Express by going to www.totalrl.com/shop