Brian McDermott sits at the very top of the table in terms of number of Grand Finals won as a head coach but it was a while before he reached that pinnacle, something he’s revealed recently.
The former Leeds Rhinos’ boss has been in the coaching game for almost 20 years now having first started out at London Broncos (formerly Harlequins) in 2006.
He spent five seasons in the capital learning his trade as a head coach before his immense success at Headingley, which then led on to further roles and ultimately the NRL where he has now landed.
McDermott is set to serve as an assistant coach at Newcastle Knights for the upcoming season and he’ll oversee talents such as Jackson Hastings and Dom Young, but in an appearance on the KnightsHQ podcast he revealed what he’s had to learn in the game.
Introduced by the hosts around the context of his success, McDermott was humble enough to explain what preceded those years at Leeds.
“It’s great and you’re very proud of it but you feel privileged as well. I spent five years at London before I got to Leeds.
“I was at Leeds Rhinos as an assistant coach first and then I became head coach at London Broncos for four and a half to five years and cut my teeth as a head coach down there.
“I probably made every error known to man but it’s under the radar. They’re outside the hub of where all the press and media is.
“You get to find out what coaching is about though, everyone has an idea as an assistant of how you should play, pick a team and manage press and all this stuff but you become a head coach and I describe it as ‘putting on different glasses’.
“It just gives you a clarity of what you’re seeing, more so than an assistant. When you put these glasses on and all eyes are on you, it just gives you a real poignant focus on how you pick a team or when you’re addressing your players.
“When I did that at London it was a shock to me in regards to how much it mattered what you said. What I wanted to say is very different to what the players needed to hear.
“What do I want to say? Well who gives a s**t what I want to say, what do the players need to hear? Put your ego away, so 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.”
That was something that McDermott clearly managed to accomplish given his success, and something he managed quickly with two titles in his first two years at Headingley.