Leeds captain Merrin backs Agar for shot at Rhinos job permanently

Leeds Rhinos captain Trent Merrin has given his backing to Richard Agar becoming the club’s permanent head coach, even if the man himself remains coy about the prospect of taking the job full-time.

Agar has led Leeds to six wins from his eleven games in charge, including the crucial 18-10 win at Castleford on Friday that moved the Rhinos two points clear of the relegation zone.

Merrin admitted to League Express that it had been difficult seeing his close friend Dave Furner lose his job earlier in the season. But says the job Agar has done in turning Leeds around merits him being mentioned among the candidates to coach Leeds on a permanent basis.

“It was definitely tough at the start of the year, because I was close to Dave and he was one of the main reasons I came over here,” the Australian international said.

“I felt really bad when he lost his job, but it was a tough gig for Rich to step up after all that. It’s all credit to him for the way he’s held himself throughout it all and put the team first.

“He’s coached us to get our focus back on footy and I think we’ve bought into what he’s tried to bring really well. He’s right when he says we control where we finish, and when we brush off all the rubbish surrounding us and focus on what we can control, we get results like these. Rich is a champion bloke.

“Anyone that can step into chaos like he has and get us playing the way he has is a great coach in my eyes.”

When asked whether he thinks Agar should be among the frontrunners, Merrin said: “I don’t see why not – but I’m not the CEO at the end of the day! He’s done a tremendous job and if anything, he does deserve that crack. But again, that’s not my decision.”

Agar, however, continued to shy away from talk about whether he wants the job himself. He said: “Honestly, we just keep talking about one game at a time. I know you’ll think that’s just a press statement, but I just want to think about next week and getting the same amount of effort and commitment from them.”

Merrin also insists that Leeds can still force their way into contention for the play-offs with eight games remaining, while insisting they will not lose focus from their next game, which for the Rhinos is a crunch clash against Hull KR on Friday night.

“It’s not impossible at all. But we’ve got to keep grinding away and working on taking things one game at a time. We’re certainly not comfortable with where we are after a couple of wins, I can promise you that.”

Merrin continued: “We can walk away from this performance with our heads held high; there’s still a lot to work on but defensively we were outstanding. It speaks volumes about our character, to keep them out for that period of time. It shows you how tight we are. We’re starting to shut our doubters up now. People can bag us all they want, but we know within the four walls at training the calibre of men we’ve got in our camp.”