Brian McDermott's sacking as Leeds head coach on Monday after eight seasons at the West Yorkshire club has sparked a barrage of rumours concerning who will replace him at Headingley. Ex-players Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow and David Furner are among those on the shortlists circling social media and emanating out of betting companies, but current Castleford coach Daryl Powell appears to be the frontrunner for the job.

A former Rhinos player and coach, Powell has worked wonders at the Tigers since taking over midway through 2013, steering the club to a Challenge Cup Final appearance in 2014 and a League Leaders' Shield and Grand Final bow in 2017.

But, the Pontefract-born head coach has repeatedly spoken of his desire to win multiple trophies at Castleford and build something special. He is currently a way off from achieving the former and although it is hard to argue that he hasn't achieved something special already, Powell still appears determined on creating a legacy at the club.

Unfair dismissal

The phrase once bitten twice shy comes to mind with regards to speculation that Powell is apparently on his way back to Leeds. He coached the Rhinos for two years but was replaced by Aussie Tony Smith in the summer of 2003. From that moment on, Leeds never looked back as Smith guided them to their first championship in 32 years in 2004, laying the platform for a remarkable dynasty.

Yet, many Leeds fans saw Powell as the one that built the foundations for Smith's astonishing success; bringing through the likes of Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow into the first-team, Powell undoubtedly contributed to the decade-and-a-half of Super League dominance that Leeds have enjoyed since 2004. Forced out by owner Gary Hetherington, Powell joined sister club Leeds Carnegie and then took over as Featherstone boss in 2008.

Powell himself probably thought he was hard done by - the Rhinos finished second in the table in his last season (2003) - and he may well have felt as though he had not had a proper chance to show what he was capable of. As such, would he really take over the reins at a club that effectively did the dirty on him at the beginning of his coaching career?

Castleford transformation

Powell enjoyed great success at Featherstone, finishing top of the Championship in each of his four seasons in charge and guiding Rovers to a Grand Final victory in 2011. It was in May 2013 that Powell became coach of the club that he had supported as a boy. Bottom of the table and on the receiving end of some dismal results, then head coach Ian Millward was sacked with Powell appointed weeks later.

The ex-Featherstone boss' impact was instant; the Tigers won six, drew one and lost six with Powell at the helm towards the back end of 2013. Then came the club's first Wembley visit in 28 years in 2014 - though it ended in a 23-10 loss to Leeds, it was a fixture that just barely a year ago would not have seemed possible.

2017 finally yielded the first piece of silverware in the Powell era at Castleford as the Tigers scooped up the League Leaders' Shield in emphatic fashion. A Grand Final defeat meant finishing top was Powell's only real success in a season where the Tigers were by far and away the best side in the competition.


This is why Castleford fans should not panic - even if some bookies now have him as 2/1 favourite for the Leeds job. Powell has transformed the Tigers on the field, but they are still not the finished product. At both Leeds and Featherstone, Powell did not leave of his own accord; at Leeds, he was pushed out in favour of Tony Smith and things did not end well at Featherstone either.

Powell has stuck at his past jobs for as long as he feels wanted - he is still very much wanted at Castleford. He and his backroom staff have been together since the beginning and the Tigers' key players - such as Luke Gale and Paul McShane - have all signed long-term deals with a view to continuing under Powell's tutelage. Powell has been, and is, building for the future - a future which still seems very likely to include him.

The bond between those associated with the club - the fans, boardroom, players and staff - is second to none and Powell himself has helped create that. He is idolised at Castleford and knows what the club means to the fans - after all, he is one himself. People say money talks, but it was only in October 2016 that the former Great Britain loose forward signed a four-year contract - a contract that undoubtedly saw his wage rise considerably.

Leeds are currently in the middle of expanding Headingley and with no players actually joining the club despite their injury crisis, Rhinos owner Gary Hetherington may not have the financial capacity to throw as much money at Powell as Leeds fans think he can.

It will be interesting - as a Rugby League fan - to see where Leeds do look for their next appointment, but I can't help thinking that Daryl Powell will not be the man to take over from Brian McDermott.