New coach Brian McDermott says there is no need for Featherstone fans to question his belief in the value of traditional clubs like Rovers.
The former Leeds chief’s high-profile appointment has been criticised by some supporters, who were upset by his comments immediately after guiding Toronto Wolfpack to victory over their club, and therefore promotion to Super League, in the 2019 Million Pound Game in Canada.
“Super League needs to be able to sell a final or a TV deal to potential investors which says it’s going to be competed by big-city teams,” he said at the time.
“In five years’ time if the Super League final or the Challenge Cup final is still competed by some small towns in the North of England, while it’s a brilliant story – and Featherstone are an absolutely fantastic story, so are Salford (that year’s Grand Finalists) – wherever we are going to sell that to is the interesting point.”
Two years on, the 51-year-old former international prop, who led Leeds to a World Club Challenge, four Super League titles and two Challenge Cups, is targeting a top-flight berth for a proud small-town club who in the summer era, have three times fallen at the final hurdle – against Wakefield in 1998, Toronto in 2019 and, under his predecessor James Webster, Toulouse this year.
“My comments were about the growth of the game, getting new eyeballs on the sport, eyeballs of people who have big wallets and want to get involved and invest,” explained McDermott, who has also overseen Harlequins (now London Broncos) and the USA national team, and is fresh from a ten-match stint as coaching consultant at Oldham, where he was unable to prevent relegation from the Championship.
“What Featherstone are as a club is very, very good, and if anyone wants to know how to grow a club, go talk to (Rovers Chairman) Mark Campbell.
“But the growth of Rugby League – in terms of bigger broadcasting deals and more investment – isn’t going to come by having the same or relatively the same Super League teams from the North of England.
“I’ve got ultimate respect for Wigan, St Helens, Featherstone, Swinton, Oldham and those types of traditional teams.
“Rugby League needs them, but it also needs something added. It isn’t either or.”
Campbell, Rovers Chairman since 2010, said: “I’ve made it really clear in my tenure that I’m committed to giving everything I possibly can to bring Super League status to this club. It is what this club deserves.
“I’ve known and worked with Brian previously. He is the right fit to take us to the next level.”
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