“The honeymoon period is done” – Jamie Jones-Buchanan identifies “habitual” and “cultural” problems at Leeds Rhinos

A “quiet emotional” Jamie Jones-Buchanan spoke to the press following his coaching debut today.

The Leeds legend and seven-time Super League Champion has taken over following Richard Agar’s decision to step down after five defeats from six but Buchanan was unable to stop Leeds slipping to a sixth defeat as their Challenge Cup hopes ended at the hands of Castleford.

After the game he addressed what he believes are the problems currently holding Leeds back: “Undeniably the underlying problems are going to take a while to solve. There’s some habitual problems in there and some cultural. There’s some people who haven’t been put under the blow torch enough to be able to perform and be comfortable being uncomfortable.

“If you’re going to be ill disciplined, if you’re going to keep giving penalties away, if you’re going to get put in the sin bin you have to be mentally and physically tough enough to defend it out and we’re not there yet. That’ll take a few weeks to fix up.”

He then spoke about the importance of leadership and about the need to instil that in the group but also put them under more pressure so that they become “comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“My beliefs on leadership come from a multitude of places,” the Leeds interim boss said, “But the vast majority when it comes to rugby league comes from Tony Smith, Brian McClennan and Brian McDermott. I guess I’m trying to put together a mosaic of what I think is beneficial for these boys.

“We’ve got to start again and get these boys up to speed. I’ve got to throw that blow torch on them in the short term and see how they respond.

“We’ve tried to play and train in the sunshine when everything’s rosy and everything’s clean and tidy. Rugby league is chaos and it’s about managing chaos. You can’t make a pretty car crash and we’re not able to deal with that chaos at the moment.”

Having spoken about the habitual and cultural problems at the club, Buchanan expressed the need to build a new culture and a level of consistency with that: “Habits and culture create consistency, to create great habits you need a level of consistency. When it’s all pulling really well you don’t need to think about it so you can invest all your energy into the little details and we’re not doing that.

“The honeymoon period is done we’ve got to start putting heat on them, more accountability. Me and Kev Sinfield have been best mates forever but we had a personal and professional relationships so if I didn’t do my job on the pitch he was ruthless, he’d tell you. He was preserving the environment and at the same time I understood why he was doing it so I didn’t stick up my chest.”

Unsurprisingly, having had such success as a player, Buchanan was looking at what made his side so successful speaking about the role then skipper Kevin Sinfield had in their success but then of course comes the question of how do you re-create what Sinfield brought to the club. Buchanan answered, “Nature, nurture. His son’s here, he’s the carbon copy in his image. Maybe it’s going to be someone like him who becomes that next leader because he cares that much about the club, his identity, his teammates.”

Alongside building leaders and culture, Buchanan believes there’s a need to return to basics name dropping former coach and reported candidate for the Leeds job now Tony Smith: “Break it down and bring it back to basics, I think about Tony Smith and some of the stuff he did was under 9 stuff. In sport it’s the people who do the basics again and again and again.”

Of course, despite all the issues at Leeds at present it was still a huge moment for Buchanan as he coached his boyhood team for the first time and he was made to feel very alive by the experience: “First time I’ve felt as alive as this for five years. I find myself in this position through circumstance, I’ve really enjoyed this week and despite the result I feel I’ve got a really good connection with the players. I believe if we keep working together we’ll get somewhere.”

As for how long he’ll stay in the role, Buchanan said: “I’ve no idea. I’ll keep going until someone tells me otherwise. That being said, if the right person comes along who can get us there quicker, I’ll welcome them because I’m a Leeds fan at heart.”

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