13th November 2018, 16:53 | championship
The former Bradford Bulls and Great Britain forward guided the Rhinos to eight trophies in his eight years at Headingley but he found himself out of a job in July when his contract was terminated with the team struggling near the foot of Betfred Super League.
The 48-year-old former marine says he turned his phone off after becoming disillusioned with the game but quickly rediscovered his passion and jumped at the chance to succeed Paul Rowley at the ambitious Canadian club.
“You go through that period when you think ‘I don’t really want to coach’ and I did that for 10 days,” he said at his first press conference as Toronto head coach at the club’s training base in Manchester.
“It’s like when the girlfriend finishes with you, you tell yourself she was never that pretty and you didn’t really like her.
“I turned my phone off. There were a few rumours and a few people told me I should make some phone calls but I went through a period when I didn’t want to listen.
“In reality, that enforced break made me realise I’m a rugby league coach. I’ve done some other bits and bats to keep me busy but it’s confirmed what I do for a living and what I’m really good at.
“If nobody had come in for me, I would have coached anybody at some stage – I’ve got to pay the bills – so I’m really fortunate that Toronto selected me.”
McDermott guided Leeds to a 2012 World Club Challenge victory over Manly and to the domestic treble in 2015, but he says his time spent with struggling London Broncos will prepare him better for the challenge with Toronto and does not see coaching in the Championship as a step down.
“I reckon I’m really qualified to coach Toronto because of the five years I spent in London,” he said.
“I maintain that some of my best coaching went on at London. Some of the decisions I made and some of the things you have to do and the hours you’ve got to work in London is incredible.
“I reckon a version of that coaching will have to be employed at Toronto this year, which is way above and beyond anything I might have done at Leeds.
“I genuinely don’t think I’m stepping down. The Championship is a tough comp.
🚨Welcome to the 6ix!🚨— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) October 18, 2018
Toronto Wolfpack are delighted to confirm six star signings for the 2019 season👇@rickyleutele✅
Tom Olbison✅ pic.twitter.com/y0Nr1j68Yy
“Any insinuation that we’ll be alright because we’re spending loads of money and we’re just in the Championship, my first job will be to put my size 12 boots on top of that and crush it straight away.
“I’m really excited about coaching a club that could change rugby league in the UK.
“I had similar thoughts at London. I think there is only one other coach in Super League who could say, if they win the league, it could change the face of the game.”
McDermott, who took training for the first time on Tuesday, will retain Simon Finnigan and Kurt Haggerty as his assistants and says he is happy with the squad assembled by director of rugby Brian Noble, his old boss at Bradford.
“I’ve only been around them for a couple of days but a hungrier group of men I’ve not met,” he said.
“They’re up for it. We want to be in Super League and, more than that, I think it’s credible that Toronto can go on and win the Grand Final. That’s what I’m here for.”