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Brian McDermott reveals anguish at Rob Burrow decision during coaching career

Brian McDermott entered the set-up at Leeds as a head coach in 2011 with a squad that few could dream of having in their transitional year and he ensured he utilised it perfectly with the Rhinos lifting the 2011 Grand Final.

The squad that he took charge of featured names such as Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire, Ryan Bailey, Carl Ablett, Brett Delaney, Ryan Hall, Zak Hardaker, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Kylie Leuluai, Jamie Peacock, Keith Senior, Kallum Watkins and Brent Webb, to name just a few.

It was those first three names mentioned though that McDermott admitted caused him as much strife as the rest with the legendary trio of Sinfield, Burrow and McGuire as his options in the halves.

Obviously two doesn’t go into three and McDermott has revealed his heartache at having to drop Rob Burrow, and utilise him as the super sub and game-changer that he many have come to remember him as.

“By the time I got to Leeds I’d got some runs on the board as head coach but I also knew it was a different kind of coaching.

“I didn’t need to show them how to play, clearly we needed to buy into a system, but it became about managing personalities.

“We had three half-backs that wanted to play two positions, I had Kev Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow all wanting to play six and seven and I had to leave one of them out.

“The majority of the time I left Rob Burrow out which was a real difficult decision for me to come to terms with and more difficult for Rob to deal with because he started a lot of games on the bench.

“He was a genuine number seven, he carried our squad and wore number seven as well. I quickly learned getting back to Leeds that managing the players and the squad was equally as big, if not bigger than coming up with a game plan.”

During that 2011 season when McDermott arrived Sinfield started 31 games, McGuire 15 and Burrow 19 with a further 10 from the bench.

One such game where Burrow did come off the bench was in that 2011 Grand Final where he scored his iconic try that saw him dart under a tackle and pierce St Helens back line with the dash from the halfway line.

McDermott went on to further describe the talents that Burrow possessed as he explained the game breaking ability that the number seven had.

“Rob Burrow by his own admission said ‘I didn’t really know what I was going to do’, but he would set off and do something incredible most times, he carried the ball a lot.

“He’s not that far off the ground in terms of stature, his legs moved a million miles an hour, tough as nails, he didn’t avoid contact at all and defensively what he’d do against blokes far taller than him was incredible.

“He was a very instinctive player and a game breaker, in tight games he’d be the difference. Even if he himself didn’t make the line break because there was about eight blokes sh**ing themselves about him, he’d open some gaps elsewhere.”

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