Brian McDermott, who led the Toronto Wolfpack to the top tier of English rugby league as head coach, has been hired to do the same thing with Featherstone Rovers.
Featherstone (20-1-0) finished runner-up in the second-tier Betfred Championship this year before losing 34-12 to league-leading Toulouse Olympique in the so-called Million Pound Game that earned the French side promotion to next season’s Betfred Super League. Rovers head coach James Webster stepped down after the game, citing personal reasons.
While McDermott helped fill Leeds Rhinos' trophy case prior to joining Toronto, he also has a history of nurturing clubs like London Broncos and the Wolfpack.
"There's a decent project here," McDermott told a news conference Monday. "And I understand the task that's ahead for the club. I understand the club as well."
McDermott called Featherstone, which was formed in 1902, "one of the most progressive clubs in the game."
"But it has got that singular objective of getting promoted to Super League and that's what (Featherstone chairman) Mark (Campbell) has got me here for. And that's my task. And I'm really excited about the project that's ahead. There's not many projects in the game at the moment. There's not many clubs who have the ambition that Featherstone Rovers have. But the script that lies before us about doing something that hasn't been done before with Featherstone is one of the main reasons I'm here."
Featherstone has seen McDermott's coaching skills up-close. The former British Royal Marine was at the helm of the Wolfpack when it dispatched Featherstone 24-6 in the 2019 Million Pound Game.
The transatlantic Wolfpack never finished out the 2020 Super League season, which was disrupted by the pandemic. The club stood down in July, saying it could not afford to play out the resumption of the season. Super League clubs eventually voted against a proposal to readmit the Toronto franchise under new ownership.
Campbell says Featherstone has been ready for Super League "the last four or five years."
"We're absolutely delighted to get Brian on board at Featherstone Rovers because his track record, his ability to win big game will stand us in good stead for promotion next year," he added.
McDermott, 51, led Leeds to four Super League titles, three Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge title between 2011 and 2018 prior to joining the Wolfpack. He also coached the U.S. national team.
After his time with Toronto, McDermott briefly serves as a consultant to Oldham RLFC.
After five years as a Royal Marine commando, with tours of duty in Iraq and Northern Ireland. McDermott went on to play 251 games for Bradford, earning four Great Britain and one England cap.
His coaching career began as an assistant at Huddersfield before taking over London Broncos/Harlequins RL in 2006. He went to Leeds in 2010 as an assistant coach before taking the top job a year later.
McDermott took over Toronto after the 2018 season when the team lost its first Super League promotion bid to London Broncos. The next year, he led the Wolfpack to a 26-1-0 season and promotion.
The Wolfpack first took the field in 2017 under coach Paul Rowley. It won promotion out of the third-tier Betfred League 1 in its inaugural season.
The Featherstone roster includes Craig Hall, the Wolfpack's first captain, and former Toronto forward Jack Bussey.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press