Lee Radford will step back into coaching this year after agreeing to join rugby union outfit Dallas Jackals as a defence coach.
FC reporter William Jackson caught up with former Hull head coach to discuss his new opportunity.
How excited are you to be joining Dallas Jackals?
Yeah, I’m really grateful for the opportunity. It’s the direction I wanted my career to go towards, rugby union, so to do in such a nice part of the world I’m really grateful and looking forward to working with Phil Camm, Allen Clarke and Elaine Vassie over there and putting the foundations in place for a club that can hopefully have some success in the competition.
Given you’ve worked in rugby league throughout your coaching career, why have you chosen to go to rugby union?
It’s a sport that’s always interested me, I played it when I retired from playing Super League and the one thing that has really jumped out at me in this short space of time since all this has happened is how big of a game it actually is. It’s global. I’ve been asked to have a look at one or two players and there’s so many competitions internationally, it’s been an eye opener. In rugby league you’re looking at Super League, Championship, NRL, Q Cup or NSW Cup, it’s knocked me for six how many competitions there are and how many people play the game.
How did this opportunity come up then?
The sporting director Allen Clarke came over from Ospreys last year and spent a week with me at County Road to see how we did things at Hull. Obviously I must have made an impression on him and when he got sacked from the Ospreys I messaged him and when I got sacked he messaged me. I asked him if I could come over one time and jump on a laptop with him and pick his brains regarding some of the details of the game. He rung me back and said ‘look, I can do one better, I’ve just taken a role at the Dallas Jackals, would you be willing to come over as my defence coach?’
Did you have to think about it or did you jump at the chance?
There was genuine butterflies there when I came off the phone that’s for sure.
Is rugby union in America on the up?
Yeah, I liken watching it to the football over there. There’s some real stars like Ma’a Nonu and Chris Robshaw has just signed over there, the England forward. From what I’ve been told it’s one of the fastest developing sports in America and everyone knows how crazy that nation is for sport. Looking at some of the teams in the competition, to be able to go to places like Vegas and Toronto and Seattle to play, it’s a chance of a lifetime.
Are you looking at this as a life experience as well as an opportunity to get your rugby union career underway?
Definitely but it‘s an opportunity for me to develop as a rugby union coach, find out my niche and what I can offer and develop from there.
If you can help grow the game out there then that’s definitely something to put on your CV too isn’t it?
Yeah definitely. At youth level that’s key for any new franchise to make sure there’s a pathway for kids coming through and that probably won’t be in the first 12 months but it will be further down the line definitely.
Is it the plan to develop there with a view to coming back over here for a more high profile role?
First and foremost I think coming back is probably at the back of my mind. I want to go there and do the best job for Dallas I can and make them a real competitor in their league.
What sort of work do you expect to be doing as a defensive coach, is there plenty of room to call on your rugby league experience?
I think there’s so many aspects that are transferable but there’s so many that are completely alien. Learning those first and foremost will be important, but defending is defending, it’s stopping the opposition from scoring a try and that’s something that excites me.
I’ve probably been doing too much homework, my head’s a bit cloudy with it all at the moment.
When are you moving over?
October. I’m coming back at Christmas and then the family are coming out in February because both my boys are at Hull. There’s two bye weeks during the season so I’m going to try and get home for them.
I bet you can’t wait to get your teeth into it and give it a good crack?
100 per cent, I’m really looking forward to getting immersed in a new environment and becoming the best rugby union coach I can be.