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Powell faces up to Quins challenge

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George Riley George Riley | 15:48 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

It was a sobering moment as I interviewed a Super League coach who is younger than me for the first time in my life.

At the age of 30 and having never played professional rugby league, Rob Powell has beaten off competition from some bigger and more experienced names in the sport to be named head coach of Harlequins RL.

He becomes the youngest top-flight coach since a 28-year-old Steve McCormack had a crack at Salford in 2001.

It is a bold move by a club that knows it needs to be bold just to safeguard its Super League future.

I gave Powell a buzz shortly after the news was made public and spoke to a guy who sounded like he'd been in the job for years. I asked if he appreciated that many expected such a big job would go to a more acknowledged, more respected figure.

"Yeah I agree it's a bold move by the club and it would've been easy (for them) to go overseas or get a coach from the north who has done things in the game that I haven't.

"But they are thinking long term. I have been part of the set up here for five years and my influence in developing the junior game here means I can add something other candidates could not. I know the area and what the requirements of the job are to move the team forward," he said.

Rob Powell

Powell has big shoes to fill replacing Brian 'Big Mac' McDermott - Photo: Harlequins RL

He's a bit young for a coach though isn't he? How will senior internationals accept being ordered about by a man several years their junior who has never played the pro game?

"I can't affect how old I am but I understand why it's a big deal," he says. "The relevance of being 30 doesn't bother me, it's about whether I can do the job or not.

"It happens in a lot of walks of life that your boss is younger than you, but not much in professional sport. I had to be careful when I came in four years ago about the way I was - I haven't played to a certain level so couldn't come in and order people about. My respect levels have risen since and I will always tell people what they need to hear to get the job done, regardless of their age or size!"

Powell appreciates the size of the job he is taking on too.

When Brian McDermott quit for Leeds three months ago I blogged on his legacy and at the time, Powell insisted he was only filling the role temporarily "as the club searches to find a natural successor."

But Quins have since decided the best way to build on the foundations laid by McDermott is to hand the responsibility to the man who worked closest with him and I understand members of the playing staff, including senior names such as captain Rob Purdham, were consulted before Powell was given the job.

Having been assistant to Mac for three years, Powell knows his new task is a much bigger, much wider one, than merely coaching a top-flight rugby league team. He is now an integral figure in maintaining a capital presence in the sport's elite league.

"Of course it is key for rugby league to have a team in Super League, it is massively important," he says. "Having worked for an amateur team in the area (South London Storm, an amateur club based in Croydon), and for the governing body too, I can see how vital it is in the development of the game to have a London team."

Rob Purdham

Skipper Rob Purdham will be Powell's lieutenant out on the pitch - photo: Getty

Quins have been forced to listen to speculation, and answer questions, about their future in recent months. Chairman David Hughes even felt the need to address the crowd before their final home game of the season against Warrington, to give assurances that the club was okay.

He has since taken on full ownership and Powell believes that is key to the club retaining their Super League licence when it comes up for renewal in the New Year.

"I am more than confident on our licence," he said. "Our owner has guaranteed his money for the next four years and we're a massive part of the focus of what the RFL wants to do with the game.

"I haven't taken the job as a profile for me. I've taken it because it's the next step in my progression at the club that I love. Super League or not doesn't matter to me, there is a job here I wanted and I've taken it."

Powell's most immediate task is to make a squad that has lost key men Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Will Sharp, ready for Super League - but fans should not expect any big-name replacements.

"I've got a couple of experienced Aussies coming over to boost us but there will be no new big-name signings at this stage. A couple of loan deals will be done soon as I do want to add to the squad."

Quins have lost on-loan Leeds full-back Ben Jones-Bishop, who I expect to start for the Rhinos at full-back this year, but crucially have kept hold of Purdham and Player of the Year Luke Dorn who agreed a new deal at the end of the season before heading to Australia to get married.

Powell needs to keep the pair fit and firing all season to build his new team around them.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well done to the Quins for giving an opportunity to a young British coach, i wish him all the best.

  • Comment number 2.

    This is the only way forward.He was number two at quins so he must have qualities and to keep the idea going of home grown players and coaches this is the step in the right direction. Sure again it will not be an easy season but we must stick to our guns because sooner than later it will be so beneficial to us and the sport in general
    Good luck Rob we are behind you 100% and looking forward to the new season at the stoop

  • Comment number 3.

    Ideally, I would like have seen Brian Noble come into the club on a 2 year contract but rumour has it he is off to Australia.

    I wish Rob Powell all the best in the Head Coaches role, with a bit of luck Joel Monaghan might think that a year or 2 in London is appealing which would really strength our squad.

    I also hope Rob Powell is his own man and not a "mini-Mac" who talks riddles and nonsense and doesn't make bizaare excuse when we lose games we should win!!!

    Good luck Rob!

  • Comment number 4.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 5.

    I wish him well, not sure there were too many high profile candidates lining up for the job but still, hopefully he will do well.

    @avdeevaelena Not sure what the 2018 soccer world cup has to do with it, but mods here dont seem to mind it. Would be spam on any other site.


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