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Quins, veggies and capital punishment

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George Riley George Riley | 21:04 UK time, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

As one of the most passionate men in the game, Harlequins coach Brian McDermott was hurt by Sunday's home defeat by Salford in a big way.

The 22-26 reverse from a position of authority leaves Quins rock bottom in a season which has already seen the club warned by the Rugby Football League about their attendances ahead of the renewal of Super League licences in a couple of years.

Mac was due to join myself and Gabby Logan on our Monday lunchtime Radio 5 Live Sports Panel.

With rumours rife on internet forums and local radio phone-ins the previous evening that he had quit his job, McDermott quite rightly opted to spend the day with the players rather than the media.

"The weekend hurt Brian a lot, he took it very personally," influential half-back Luke Dorn told me as we caught up for a chat this week.

I shared a few beers with Dorny on a lively night out in Edinburgh at last year's Murrayfield Magic and we stay in touch.

Harlequins coach Brian McDermott in thoughtful poseCoach McDermott has had plenty on his mind so far this season

Indeed Dorn himself was keen to step into Mac's shoes on our 5 Live show before David Beckham usurped him by snapping his Achilles. "I can't believe you've brushed me for Becks!" he said. "Since when has David Beckham been more important than me?!"

The entertaining Aussie calls himself a Londoner now and lives and breathes Quins RL.

He also has the frustration of not being able to do a thing about their current predicament, as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Captain Rob Purdham's been out with a shoulder injury too and the experienced pair have left a gaping void at The Stoop, but both are close to returning.

"Purdo is a couple of weeks ahead of me, he'll be back playing in two or three weeks," says Dorn. Both he and Purdham were present when McDermott got his troops in for a crunch chat after that Salford setback.

"He sat us all down on Monday and told us we are good players, and assured us things would improve. In particular he told us we have to be smarter and work harder for each other. That's the way Mac works - it is about hard work and digging yourself out of the hole.

"He didn't even mention the rumours about him quitting that sprung up from somewhere on Sunday night. I don't even know if any of the players had heard anything.

"I only learned on Tuesday that there was speculation Mac had resigned. This never came up in our Monday meeting so Mac clearly didn't think it was enough of an issue. It was never spoken about."

McDermott is not a quitter, and his desire to see and encourage his players on Monday rather than conduct a media interview underlines that.

But he badly needs a response from his squad, and the sooner he gets the guile and leadership of Dorn and Purdham back the better.

Not only to make things click off the field, but also because the pair are starting to do each others' heads in off it!

"We're the best of mates at the moment," says Dorn. "All we do is hang out with each other so we're well and truly sick of each other at the moment.

"The days are long as we want to be involved in the weights sessions as much as possible so we do our own rehab and then do the sessions with the rest of the squad.

"But I do find a bit of Playstation time in the evenings. I can't play Purdo as he has no idea what a Playstation is!.

"Purdo's not even got a computer and would rather go and clean his potatoes in the back yard! He has a proper little vegetable patch down the bottom of his garden."

So that's one positive at least from Quins' disappointing season to date. Their captain has used his injury lay-off to fine-tune his outstanding organic veggies!

"He's from a farming background so he's pretty good at it, and very proud and massively protective of his vegetables," says Dorn.

Harlequins captain Rob Purdham in action against SalfordPurdham has spent more time pulling up weeds than pulling down opponents this year

"Whenever he invites the boys around, it normally means there is some digging in the garden that he needs help with."

Purdham's potatoes may be thriving, yet on the pitch Dorn is adamant that the players are not turnips.

"The mood is a little bit flat but we are confident we can snap out of this and we have to be. We lost the Salford game because we didn't take our chances and our kicking game was a bit off once again," he said.

"We just have to sort a few little things out, and we will be more competitive, the wins will start ticking over and things will start getting better."

Having been missing all season after dislocating his shoulder in training, Dorn has seen first-hand just how much his coach lives and breathes rugby league in the capital.

McDermott arrived in London four years ago as a Yorkshireman looking to spread the gospel of our great game on relatively alien soil. Two years later, on a much smaller scale, I made a similar move from Leeds.

Yet whereas my main challenges are convincing producers that rugby league stories are worthy of inclusion on 5 Live, and convincing landlords to whack the rugby on the big screen in west London pubs on a Friday night, McDermott shoulders the responsibility of making the sport a success in the capital.

"I sat up next to Mac in the stands during that Salford game and we were talking things through in the first half and were confident we were getting on top, and were in control," said Dorn.

"Then we lost the lead, things started to slip and I could tell how much things were beginning to get to Mac. Sitting up there for the last five games next to him I have seen all his moods and this is the most disappointed I have ever seen him. "

As one of the senior heads in the squad, Dorn also acknowledges and understands there is arguably more importance attached to the success of Quins than any other side,

"There is a bit more pressure on Quins as a team as we realise how important it is for the sport to have a successful London team and that's always at the back of our minds," he admits.

"We definitely feel the pressure of the bigger picture and we have the burden of trying to make London a successful team. We need the crowds and money coming in.

"You can talk about marketing the game down south but the best way of doing it is to have a successful team and that is our responsibility. If we can't become a successful, watchable team, then why should people come and watch us? "

I'll be at The Twickenham Stoop on Saturday night as Quins bid to snap out of their losing run against in-form Huddersfield, themselves high on the adrenalin of toppling champions Leeds last week.

Elsewhere I can't wait to see Gareth Thomas make his rugby league debut for Crusaders.

The veteran is in great shape but I expected the Welshman would be used at centre.

Brian Noble tells me Thomas will play on the wing. He told me his training has been "real good" and he will be "great" as a rugby league player.

I've been sharing a bit of banter with Thomas on twitter this week and to say he has taken to the warmth and friendliness of rugby league would be an understatement. I hope he is a huge success.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Keep battling away to spread the gospel George, always nice to read decent rugby league stories on the BBC.

    It would be a major surprise if Quins turned Huddersfield over this weekend, but the way Super League's shaping up this season, anything can happen!

    It seems that the few Quins fans are getting a bit restless regarding McDermott, but the fact is, who could they get that would do any better? Hanley?

  • Comment number 2.

    " but the fact is, who could they get that would do any better?"

    If Noble can go to the Welsh, then anything can happen (just so long as they keep their mitts off our Maguire!)

  • Comment number 3.

    jdgmedia ... I do fera for Quins this Sat but I'm confident when Purdham and Dorny are back they'll get better. And they defo have the best man for the job in Mac, if his patience can last of course

  • Comment number 4.

    Quins do seem to be trying absolutely everything to get those crowds up. If you go to their Harlequins Rugby League facebook page they are even offering free tickets to anyone who signs up as a fan. They need to increase awareness in London, which with so many sports is tricky, but they are definitely trying. People in London just need to experience the sport and they will be hooked...

  • Comment number 5.

    Nice interview with Dorny. However, I think it was more wishful thinking than rumour that Mac had resigned.

  • Comment number 6.

    Its very easy to say McD's the best man for the job, but he hasn't done anything to prove that. The players that were looking international class last year (Clubby, Louie) have looked poor this year. Other good SL players (Melling, Gafa) have also gone backwards and/or been kicked out by McD. The players he's brought in have been average at best, poor at worst (Williamson, Golden, Wilkes etc.). He got shot of a hard working consistent Mbu for no apparent reason.

    Ok Purdo and Dorn might improve the side but they hardly equal an injury crisis!! Temata's a bigger miss than Dorn. Come on George, I know RLs a small world and you dont want to upset anyone but get off the fence.

  • Comment number 7.

    @informed_opinion...the marketing folks are trying their best but its hard to sell a losing team playing in such an unimaginitive way

  • Comment number 8.

    so what would you suggest LondonX111 ? Get rid of Mac and start again with who? It's not them ost attractive job in the world. Clubb, LMS etc thrive on good ball. No coincidence I don't think that they're seeing less quality ball while Dorn / Purdham have been out.

  • Comment number 9.

    @George...on what basis is BMcD the best man for the job ? We've finished 3 places off bottom in each full season he's been here. Towards the end of last season it didn't really look like anyone wanted to play for him. Not sure what was going on behind the scenes but all was clearly not well. I think the fans all understand we have limited resouces but he has recruited an uninspired and unbalanced squad. He has a habit of ostracising players who don't see things his way which we can't afford in a thin squad. Not to mention the serious injuries we seem to pick up in training.

  • Comment number 10.

    I buy Mac's argument, shared by other coaches and analysts of the game, that the harsh winter conditions stopped teams being prepared for the season. Most in the know were saying "give it 10 games". Are we naive enough as fans to think that good form just happens? Super League hasn't hit the heights this season yet. And it's not like Quins are out of touch with the clubs around them. Just a thought, but how about actually backing your club, instead of clanging the chimes of doom so damn early?

  • Comment number 11.

    jbuzza ... So suggest an alternative ?? You have a great, passionate coach who will probably end up with England one day. Kick him out, and do what? I haven't been to all Quins games this season so can't vouch for how poor they may have been in all of them. But how can a team be battle-ready for the season with just one proper hit out under their belt?

    Apres - completely agree, he was worried about that at the time and his fears have obviously been realised

  • Comment number 12.

    Its not just about this season. Can you explain what happened last season ? Something went seriously wrong and BMcD himself admitted he was clueless. Seems it didn't get fixed before the start of this one either.

  • Comment number 13.

    George,
    There is no moention of how well salford came back into the game and took their chances in this blog, there are two teams on the pitch you know and 2nd half salford were the better team!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Yes I would get rid of him, he's failing. Its not just this season, its the whole of the second half of last year too. I have been to every home game of his tenure and this is a team that's not playing for the coach if ever Ive seen it. His recruitment is terrible. You call him passionate and great! But Id call him hot-headed and poor.

    Who would I replace him with? Well, right now, anyone. But what about Warren Jowitt? Ellery Hanley? Ian Millward? Rohan Smith?.

    On a more positive note I love the new away kit!

  • Comment number 15.

    Crusaders had no pre season games and they seem to be playing pretty well. Won a few matches and competitive in defeat. It seems there must be something wrong in the dressing room.

  • Comment number 16.

    "People in London just need to experience the sport and they will be hooked..."

    I've been 5 times now in the Summer to the Stoop and seen one amazing game against Leeds, where Quins won. The rest were losses and the last time was an appaling game against Bradford last year. The whole team looked awful and the Rugby from Quins was really poor. I dont mind watching league at all when it is played well but Quins RL are doing their best to persuade me that its not worth going to see them

  • Comment number 17.

    In terms of promoting the game in London do you think Quins RL would benefit from one or two marquee signings? By that I mean high profile Rugby Union players (ideally from Quins RU) much in the same mould as Crusaders have done with Gareth Thomas and rumored to be considering with Gavin Henson. It strikes me with such a massive potential fan base I very much doubt they are doing all they can to draw fans into the watch. They need to be doing more to promote the sport to others outside of their immediate cachment and not only invest in cultivating existing relationships but building new ones.

  • Comment number 18.

    Mac has does nothing other than pretend he's some deep thinking coach. You are judged by results and performances and both are woeful. Losing at home to Salford should have triggered the trap door never mind talk of the coach walking away.
    George, you ask what is the alternative, I will tell you, an Aussie coach, someone like Tony Currie the man who delivered success in 96 and 97 and with it the crowds (chicken and egg?). London need the right mix of Aussies, good players from the north and young local talent. We currently only have the latter.
    Yes Mac maybe a good guy but George that shouldn't influence a journalist, go down to the Stoop and see how poor the team is. Leigh, Featherstone, Halifax and Barrow would all take care of them at the moment.Looks like its yet another season of nothingness down in west London.

  • Comment number 19.

    I feel Brian McDermott should have quit as Manager after the dismill display against Salford last weekend.. McDermott has had his chance at the helm with Quinns for over 2yrs. I refer to Motely Crue song named "Same Old Situation" ie Position - bottom 4, experience as head coach before he came to quinns - none, known international players (Northern and Southern hemisphere) none. The manager needs to drop a league and get more experience under his belt. I dont care if the Chairman brings in a Ozzy/Kiwi manager but please do it soon as the fans deserve better!! Last week Hull FC parted company with Phil Brown after 2 years of poor results, and our Chairman should do the same..........

  • Comment number 20.

    You can't sell League in London with a losing team.

    You need a winning team playing good footie.

    Quins haven't spent all their salary cap since the days of Edwards & Offiah. That was their peak. The operation in run on a shoe string these days, and the players & staff do well to even compete. But that won't get them anywhere.

    Watch the NRL. That is League. That is the mecca.

  • Comment number 21.

    Interesting article George, it is a bit chicken and egg Im afraid. Whilst I feel sorry for Mac, he has made some poor decisions I'm afraid. We have won 1 of the last 16 / 17 games, we have recruited poorly (Esders / Golden / James etc are not Super League standard) and people are not prepared to pay to watch a side get rinsed every week.

    Serious injuries have occured to key players but these happened in pre-season with players slipping on ice....not smart!!!

    Whilst I agree that we miss Purdo and Dorny and haven't got Ellis on the park yet they won't make that much difference. Clubby, Randall and Louie look out of sorts, we don't know what Chris Mellings best position is (GB full back 3 years ago????!!!!) and our best player is a loan academy from Leeds????

    This is a very frustrating time for Quins, the Marketing people are working so hard but they need some help. A new coach, Hanley or a young Aussie may do the trick. Nathan Brown has turned a squad at Huddersfield that is OK on paper into a well drilled skillful unit in attack and defence. He had no experience to speak of but the Huddersfield board backed him, same with Morgan at HKR.

    A successful team equals people through the turnstiles equals revenue equals quiet northerners saying we should be stripped of our licence. Things need to change and fast..........

  • Comment number 22.

    SouthsNZ and SurreyShark you make some great points. The easy thing is to say recruitment has been bad. Sure it hasn't been as hot as other teams, but as SouthsNZ points out, thats a resources issue. Mac can't just go and buy class when the operation around him isn't yielding enough funds to do so. Ben JB is awesome and it's a great coupe to have him at the Stoop thouh I fear he'll be back at Leeds asap - boy they could have used him last night. Browny at Hudds may have not had much first grade experience but it wasn't a big punt as he was making waves in the nRL and a lot of others were looking at him too. Mac did a lot of the hard work at Leeds - as Franny and Willie P do for Bluey now ... and I was pleased Quins took a chance on him. I expect Frannie will be the next coach of a similar ilk to land a Super League chance

  • Comment number 23.

    Should maybe take a punt on Harrison at Batley. Put together a competitive team who improve ten fold when he is in the dressing room. Quins have a core of good players, they seem to need some motivation. Or as mentioned above, Hanley. Did an amazing job at Doncaster with no budget whatsoever.

  • Comment number 24.

    Fair points George, but the recruitment of James and Esders has been a disaster. Time (and patience) is running out at Quins - The Legend Ellery could just be the injection of enthusiasm that we need, I bet he could still do it on the park if he wanted to!!!!

    I really fear that a poor season will see the demise of the London team of this great game!!!

    Just off to the game now and I expect that Huddersfield will walk it by at least 30.....I hope not!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    All the porr signings being sighted are forwards. When london did well at the beginning of super league, they hads an awesome pack, and in the last few years the pack has been big and hardworking. Perhaps a couple of big forwards to provide some momentum, give orr some more to work with.

  • Comment number 26.

    I was there to see Quins massacred at Warrington and Leeds. They were awful in the second half of those two games.

    When anyone sacks a coach in any sport, the first thing the media and pundits look for is an excuse to say they haven't been given time and should be judged on their record. Now we have a pundit who is ignoring both.

    George, you are not the only one who has regular conversations with people within the club. And you should also consider that when talking to journalists, players are not going to criticise the coach.

    I have an impression that McDermott runs rigorous, aerobic centric training sessions. This explains why we have one of the smallest teams in SL. I don't know enough details to say whether this also explains why we have so many injuries, constantly, but questions have to be answered.

    One or two of the signings have not worked out. Criticism of McDermott's recruitment policy is justified. Matt James could not hack it. Andy Ellis is not fit and has not appeared. When you have a budget such as Quins' that's worth pointing out.

    Finally, as an intelligent person, I am sick of the same cliched excuses from McDermott after each of these defeats. I get a text message from the club's official update service every Monday which says "Brian Mc feels Quins will rise up the table when key players return from injury" or "Warrington take full advantage of Quins' injury crisis in 58 point rout". If you don't believe me, go to the Quins official web site and read how the match reports are phrased.

  • Comment number 27.

    Part of the problem for Quins/Broncos has been the lack of a steady stadium in which to play. Then when they got a steady stadium, they ended up having to rebrand themselves, thing themselves to the Harlequins name. I know a few people who went to Broncos games but they'd never go to the Stoop to support Quins RL because they support another RU team. It's the new hinderance. And there has alwas been a hinderance.

 

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