Written by Callum Walker
It’s been a tough old journey for Richard Agar, but all good things are worth fighting for. Just 17 months ago, Agar was given the Leeds head coaching role on an interim basis following the departure of previous boss Dave Furner. The former Hull FC and Wakefield main man, Agar, was inheriting a side fighting for their lives near the bottom of Super League.
Things surely couldn’t have got any worse for the Rhinos at the end of that tumultuous week, right? Wrong. An embarrassing 24-22 defeat to their bitterest rivals Bradford Bulls in the Challenge Cup sixth round made the club a laughing stock within rugby league – how the mighty had fallen.
Back-to-back losses left Agar and the Rhinos in a predicament, but eight wins from their last 14 final games of the 2019 Super League season ensured relegation was avoided and was enough to convince the Leeds board to hire Agar permanently.
Big things were predicted for Agar’s men in 2020 with the likes of former Man of Steel Luke Gale and Rob Lui joining the ranks, but a heavy defeat at home to Hull FC on the opening weekend soon brought the worries back to the surface. Fortunately, a run of three wins before lockdown came into being wiped away any concern.
A hammering by St Helens and a loss to Wigan – with a Golden Point victory over Huddersfield coming first – raised further questions. Yet, just one defeat since then has propelled Leeds within shout of a top-four spot with a Challenge Cup Final on the horizon too.
That semi-final victory over Wigan was superb to say the least with Agar’s men playing the wet weather beautifully to run out comfortable 26-12 winners. The only obstacle between Leeds and a 14th Challenge Cup success on October 17 is the Salford Red Devils, who themselves defied the odds to make Wembley for the first time since 1969.
With Agar in charge, Leeds have a boss who knows both the winning and losing side of a cup team. He was on the coaching staff at Hull for their famous triumph in 2005 – ironically against the Rhinos – but also endured misery three years later as Saints ran out 28-16 winners.
For Richard, cup final glory would follow in his father Allan’s footsteps, who won the competition with Featherstone Rovers in 1983. But, it would also deeply enamour him amongst the Leeds faithful, some of whom still do not fully appreciate how the 48-year-old has turned around the club’s fortunes.