Hetherington happy with changes at Leeds

Gary Hetherington admits that stepping back from decisions on playing matters at Leeds was a major change for him, but he is confident the move will benefit the Rhinos in the long-term.

Hetherington was a key figure in player recruitment and retention for over two decades at the club, having also had a similar role throughout his time with Sheffield Eagles.

But the 2018 appointment of Kevin Sinfield as director of rugby saw Hetherington pass that responsibility on and he insists the current set-up is working well.

Hetherington explained: “It has absolutely been the right thing to do.

“It was a new role for Kevin, and I am there whenever needed to give my opinion.

“But he makes the decisions. Part of being a chief executive, like any manager, is to lend support rather than managing yourself.

“Player recruitment and retention were always absolutely my domain, simply down to me and the coach.

“Ultimately it was always the coach that made the call to retain or recruit a player, and then they left it to me to get it done.

“It would be very tight between me and the coach at the time and nobody else was really involved, although the coach might consult his own staff.

“I did that with Brian McDermott, Brian McClennan, Tony Smith, Daryl Powell, Graham Murray right through to Dean Bell, and for twelve years at Sheffield before that, so I’ve got plenty of runs on the board.

“But as you get older you get wiser, and from a management point of view, it’s totally ineffective if you try and do people’s jobs for them.

“When players move to coaching it’s the decision-making under pressure that they struggle most with, and Kevin had been a player all his life.

“His job now is about making strategic decisions for the near and long-term future, taking everything into account in a pressure situation.

“You only get good at that through experience, and Kevin will have found the last two and half years invaluable.

“Just like me or anyone else, there will be some decisions you wish you could make again and some you get spot on.

“It’s all part of management, and we at Leeds have really good managers and people with good ethics.

“We’ve got a really good operation now.

“Richard Agar has proved to be the man for the coaching job, and he and Kevin have a close working relationship.

“Bringing in Sean Long has strengthened our backroom staff and I think out squad is the best we’ve had in quite a long time.

“A lot of other clubs can say the same and it should be a really competitive Super League this year.

“Winning the Challenge Cup last year was a significant boost to us and the squad, and there’s an expectation that we will be challenging on all fronts this year.”

Hetherington’s focus now lies primarily off the field, and he says the Rhinos – and Rugby League in general – can emerge from a tumultuous twelve months intact, although the recovery might take several years.

He added: “We’ve come out of last year, although we have taken a significant loan through the government’s initiative with the RFL.

“Furlough has been a godsend, as well as the support from all the players and staff, some of whom were on a 40 percent pay cut right through the year and still are now in some cases.

“Everybody has made significant sacrifices, including fans and our corporate partners.

“They could have taken significant rebates back, which would have crippled us financially, but they’ve been totally supportive and that’s helped us come through it.

“It’s another challenging year ahead and it will be even more challenging the longer we go without crowds.

“We’re hoping crowds will be allowed back as soon as possible to help us get back on track, because it will take several years.

“But absolutely there is light at the end of the tunnel and the vaccine has been a real game changer.

“With the rate they are vaccinating people I’m optimistic that by April we will start to get somewhere near to normal, because the club, and the whole economy, needs it.”

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