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Brian McDermott hails UK stadium as the ‘perfect ground’ for rugby league

Brian McDermott is arguably the most successful coach in the Super League era having lifted four Super League titles during his time with Leeds Rhinos.

McDermott has now headed down under to try his trade in the NRL as an assistant at Newcastle Knights, home to England winger Dom Young, and the former Rhinos boss has discussed all things rugby with Knights HQ.

Due to the incredible feats achieved as a coach it’s easy to forget what he achieved as a player, notably two Grand Final wins in 1997 and 2001.

Those successes came with Bradford Bulls, one of just four sides to ever lift the trophy, and a team that had particular success in the early Super League era.

McDermott explained why, even suggesting that the switch from winter to summer rugby created a secret weapon for Bradford, their home at Odsal Stadium.

“We used to play in the winter, so October through to March/April time. We used to play Boxing and New Year’s Day,” he told shocked hosts of the KnightsHQ podcast.

“Nobody wanted to go to the deck, the ground was so hard it was like concrete.”

All that changed with the inception of Super League in 1996 with the restructure creating the move to a completely different rugby league calendar, McDermott revealing it’s initial teething problems brought success to Bradford, all down to their stadium.

“Odsal stadium was high up elevation wise, it’s not like the top of a mountain but the weather system is different. You travel up a few hundred metres to get to the ground and at the bottom it might be cold, but at Odsal it would be snowing and freezing. This place was horrendous to play at in winter.

“Then we switched to summer and it became the perfect venue for warm weather, it’s a basin in the ground effectively. You get to Odsal top and then drive down into the ground and it’s like a gladiators arena.

“We went from being a sleepy mid-table team to one of the leading teams with this ground that nobody wanted to go to. When we won in ’97 we were by far the best team in the comp.”

With that shift to summer rugby that McDermott described and attributed to helping the Bulls become such a force, they finished inside the top three for all bar two of the first 12 seasons.

McDermott also went on to describe the insane logistics around the switch which led to what was almost an 18-month long season.

“The switch in itself is a crazy period for British rugby league. In the last winter season we played, we started in August or September 1995, went through the winter, finished the season in March 1996 then had a three or four weeks break before starting another season.

“How that worked was we had two weeks off and then straight back into training and then played the ’96 season through the summer.

McDermott called time on his career in 2003 having featured in four Grand Finals, winning and losing two a piece, before he found success in coaching at Leeds Rhinos following his initial period with Harlequins (now London Broncos).

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