Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Leicester in the Making?
As a die-hard Leeds fan I am immensely proud of the entire squad, backroom staff and coaching team. And I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I did shed a tear when the ref blew the final whistle.
Whilst I feel for Worcester (as I know the pain of relegation) it is a brilliant achievement for Leeds. This season, the Yorkshire side managed to secure top flight rugby with 40% less cash than all other teams in the Premiership.
Now that's boxing clever.
Their success due in massive part to the focus and determination of Head Coach Neil Back and Director of Rugby Andy Key.
When Back and Key arrived in LS6 two years ago they set themselves a non-negotiable three year plan:
Year 1: Promotion from the Championship. Check.
Year 2: Survival in the Guinness Premiership. Kerching! Pass GO and collect £1m.
Year 3: Top 6 finish in the league and a Heineken Cup spot. Dare I dream?
Back and Key have instilled a new level of grit and determination in Leeds. Call it mental strength, the ability to grind out results - it doesn't matter.
Last time they were in the Premiership, Leeds didn't have the fitness or mental toughness to dispatch London Irish in the way they did two weeks ago. Back then, I lost count of the times when I stood in the South Stand at Headingley to see Leeds start blowing out of their arses and roll over in the last twenty minutes.
Not now. Neil Back's Leeds are arguably one of the fittest teams in the league - as London Irish discovered in the frantic final minutes at the Majedski.
And Carnegie seem to have a newly found mental strength to tough out games and grab the win.
Remind you of anyone?
It's like Neil Back has picked up a load of individuals, shook them up, whipped them into shape, distilled his winning mentality and injected it into them along with a load of Leicester grit.
Are Leeds a new Leicester Tigers in the making?
Leeds have the infastructure, the academy, the stadium, the community links and now they have the cash. OK, so Carnegie don't have the same fan base, but if they keep winning - and winning well - then the crowds will come.
Hopefully the ex-Leicester pairing of Back and Key will be able to entice quality signings to the club with the extra £1m they will get from the RFU.
But I'm not talking about big name stars - I mean, the Justin Marshall disaster from a couple of years ago says it all.
No, I'm talking about players who many people might not have heard of but who go on to develop and be great for the team. Players like flanker Hendre Fourie, second rows Marco Wentzel and Eric Lund (who is sadly leaving the club), and hooker Andy Titterall.
Although saying that, I wouldn't mind too much if they signed Dan Carter...
But I am keeping my fingers crossed that Back and Key might have stumbled across the winning formula:
Leicester-style Grit + Fitness + Amazing team spirit x £1m = Top 6 finish for 2010/11.
As I say, I can dream...
WELL DONE LEEDS!