Written by John Davidson
Salford Red Devils coach Ian Watson says he wants to test himself at the highest level of rugby league after being linked to the vacant Leeds job.
The Rhinos are on the hunt for a new coach after sacking David Furner.
Richard Agar has been installed as temporary coach but has lost his first two games in charge. The likes of former Wigan boss Shaun Wane, ex-Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan and Castleford coach Daryl Powell has been mentioned as candidates to take over at Headingley.
While Watson’s name has not been touted by the media, the 42-year-old has done an impressive job at the AJ Bell Stadium on limited resources.
He took over at Salford in 2015 and has a win ratio of 47% with 58 wins and 66 losses from 124 games. This season the Red Devils are sitting in seventh spot on the Super League ladder with seven wins and eight defeats after 15 roads.
Asked if he was interested in the vacancy at Leeds, Watson said: ‘I love coaching, it’s what I want to do, wherever that is. I want to test myself at the highest level and I want to do that over here and abroad as well if I can.
“I’m always chasing things, I’m always accepting things as a challenge and I want to see how far I can go. See how far I can get teams to go as well. Whatever comes off the back of that will come in time hopefully.
“But I love what I’m doing at Salford. It’s tough, but I enjoy the challenge and it’s a great challenge. And I’d rather be doing it then not doing it. While that’s great with other clubs, that will all take care of itself eventually.”
Under Watson Salford have finished in the Middle Eights three times. In 2017 the Red Devils ended the regular season in fourth place after 23 rounds, then finishing seventh in the Super 8s.
Watson was born and raised in Salford and started his professional career with the Super League outfit in 1995.
He said he feels a strong bond with the club.
“It was the first club that gave me an opportunity, they signed me as a young lad when I had spoke to teams likes Wigan, Leeds and Castleford,” the Eccles junior said.
“Salford backed me and put faith in me as well. Andy Gregory was there at the time and he was a hero, he was a big pull.
“He kind of invested in me and showed me how to play the game. There’s still a lot of things now that I talk to some of our half-backs about that Andy Gregory used to talk to me about.
“So it’s all about learning and meeting different people as well. I’m one that wants to learn, but Salford did give me that opportunity to do that.
“I feel that in the last few years we’ve worked really hard to get up as a group and as a community to get where we are now.”