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5 Things We Learned #72

Finally change at Leeds

It came as a great surprise to hear that Brian McDermott had been sacked on Monday morning. There were always mixed opinions about him from the Leeds’ fans, but at times it felt as if he would always be safe in his job. I do, however, think it’s the right time and the right move given the Rhinos’ current situation, with the side playing their worst rugby since the early 2000’s.

Attention now turns to his replacement, with Gary Hetherington confirming he’d already started searching. There’s plenty of options but I think a rookie coach like Jason Demetriou or Dave Furner would be the ideal sort of candidate. Both would inject fresh enthusiasm into a Leeds team full of big names that are lacking in leadership, creativity or structure. Yes, a safer option would be someone with a proven track record at the top level, but the last thing they need is some big-name Aussie with an ego bigger than that of his players. It’s time for Hetherington to take a risk.

For an in-depth look at 5 possible replacement for McDermott, click HERE.

Wigan halves in safe hands

There was panic around the DW stadium last week with strong rumours that maverick halfback George Williams is on his way to Catalans. Though no deal has been confirmed, it would be a huge blow should the Cherry and Whites lose arguably their best player. I imagine that after Thursday night, however, Warriors fans will be breathing much easier after witnessing the next youngster to roll off the production line.

Josh Woods has been in and around the first team for a couple of years now but put in his best performance to date against Leeds. His involvement was fairly limited but certainly effective, while his playing style is similar to that of former Wigan stand-off Kevin Brown. He’s not the quickest or the strongest but reads the game well and has superb technical ability, as was the case with his pass for Liam Marshall’s first try. There’s a lot of competition in Wigan’s halves but Woods is certainly pushing for his place, and would be an ideal candidate should Williams need a replacement.

Catalans almost safe

Talk about turning a season around! It wasn’t so long ago that I berated a poor Catalans side that were in the bottom two, lacking in attacking flare and looking clueless in defence. Fast forward a couple of months, though, and the Dragons have won nine of their last 11 games, are in the Challenge Cup semi-final and have moved up to seventh in the table. It’s a miraculous turnaround.

One of the big changes has been the recruitment of Josh Drinkwater. The former London and Leigh half is in stellar form after joining in April, scoring 80 points and becoming the linchpin of Catalans’ attack. Him, along with the likes of Samisoni Langi, Greg Bird and Tony Gigot have all stepped up and turned the Dragons into a potent attacking side once again, whilst their defence has also significantly improved. It may be a step too far for the Dragons to reach the top four, but heir form is certainly something to build on in 2019.

Smaller clubs in turmoil

It was shocking, and actually quite scary, to find out that two clubs nearly folded this week. Barrow Raiders and Keighley Cougars released statements on Friday detailing how they both came within hours of going out of existence, which would have meant two huge losses for our sport.

It’s bewildering how, in this day and age, it seems so easy for things like this to happen. There needs to be some sort of structure in place to secure clubs’ survival in situations like this. Of course, it still needs to be the responsibility of clubs to manage their own finances correctly but in cases like Barrow and Keighley’s, where selfish shareholders are prioritising their own gain over the club’s best interests or a club has been left in turmoil due to poor previous owners, the RFL needs to be in a position to step in and help out. Unlike football, rugby league isn’t in a position where we can take clubs for granted and let them fizzle out when the going gets tough, so having the backing of the governing body would be a step in the right direction.

RL getting primetime publicity, sort of

Rugby league fans in the south may have recognised a familiar face when they turned on their TV’s on Thursday night. That’s because former League 1 player Frankie Foster is one of the newest additions on ITV2 hit show Love Island. The 22-year-old played for the Gloucestershire All Golds in 2014 but is now set to launch a new career for himself as a reality star in Britain’s favourite villa, which is great publicity from a rugby league perspective.

Speaking of the All Golds, the club are now making great strides in the West of England League after re-entering the amateur game. The club dropped out of League 1 at the end of last season but have gone back to their roots and are currently unbeaten after the first phase of the season, scoring an impressive 344 points in just five games. Their next fixtures come against the likes of Oxford Cavaliers, Reading Raiders and Somerset Vikings in a division that is making great strides for southern expansion.

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