The Garry Schofield Column: Who I want to see take charge of Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos

HULL FC play host to Leeds on Sunday – a clash of one team looking for a new coach and another that should be.

I sound like a broken record, but I just can’t see what type of team Leeds are under Rohan Smith, or where they are heading.

The fans are growing ever more frustrated because the team isn’t performing to anything like the level they should be.

Nor are they getting the best out of their big signings Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers.

Rohan has been at the helm long enough to have shaped the squad and implemented his coaching philosophies and systems.

In my view, it’s just not working, and while I think Leeds will beat Hull (by 18 points), then follow up by putting London to the sword at Headingley, so buying Rohan more time, that will just paper over the cracks.

The club needs to make a change, and for me, make a move to prise Paul Rowley from Salford.

He’s a proven coach who has worked with Croft and Ackers and would promote the style of rugby the supporters want to see.

Meanwhile congratulations and good luck to Richie Myler on his new – and expansive – role as director of rugby at Hull FC.

It’s a bold appointment which has got people talking, and in most cases, that in itself is good for the game, because it raises its profile.

Will it be good for Hull? I certainly hope so, because I firmly believe a stronger Hull makes for a stronger game all round.

I still have a lot of time for my first club, especially the loyal supporters who, like those of Leeds, deserve so much more than they’ve had to put up with in recent times.

Without a trophy since winning the Challenge Cup for the second year in succession in 2017 and not even in the play-offs since 2020, the start of this season has been dire to say the least.

Meek performances by the players cost Tony Smith his job, and Hull are in a big black (and white) hole.

Richie, who I’m sorry has been forced to give up his playing career due to an elbow injury sustained with York, has to find a way out of it, and for a bloke who on the face of it seems very inexperienced in terms of this kind of task, it’s a pretty big ask.

I guess chairman Adam Pearson and chief executive James Clark must have seen qualities they like and think will be effective – and to be fair, he has played in Super League for a long time, and so has had the opportunity to listen to and learn from plenty of people along the way.

But given the scale of Richie’s job description – overseeing the whole playing side from development to first team and recruitment of players and coaching staff, including Tony’s successor – I’d like to ask them: Who was doing all this up to now? And is it too much for one person?

For what it’s worth, I’ve already messaged Richie with my own suggestion for coach.

It will take ambition, determination, a bit of nerve and no doubt some money, but if Hull really are serious about becoming a major power once again, I would try to prise Lee Briers from Brisbane Broncos and, like Wigan have done with Matt Peet, hand him a long-term contract and make sure he has all the time and tools necessary to do the job.

Having made his mark working with Matt at Wigan for a season, Lee is now making his mark working with Kevin Walters at Brisbane, and that will have added to the experience he gained as part of the Warrington coaching set-up before he was appointed by Wigan.

It would have to be a long-term deal because this is a long-term project, and  Lee would not only be able to entice quality players to Hull (using the knowledge and contacts he has built up in both hemispheres) but I think would also be keen to blood youngsters from the production line which the club wants Richie to improve.

And as we’ve seen from his input at Wigan, where the boring style of play promoted by a succession of coaches was ditched, he would also favour the kind of entertaining rugby Hull fans crave.

We’ve watched Sam Burgess arrive from South Sydney to start to change things at Warrington, where he hasn’t been afraid to ignore reputations and, if he thinks it’s right, go with youth, and I believe Lee would follow suit at Hull, where he would be a great fit. 

I’ve always been a big believer in pitching youngsters in and letting them learn, sometimes the hard way.

And because of the introduction of IMG’s club-grading, which means relegation isn’t solely due to what happens on the pitch, it’s been a long time since there have been so few excuses for doing just that.

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,427 (April 22, 2024)

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