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The big interview: James Lowes’ career back on a high at Leeds Carnegie
The Bulls face Warrington in the Challenge Cup quarter-final in June, a trophy Jimmy Lowes won as a player with Bradford (in 2000 and 2003, picture) and as assistant coach to Tony Smith at Warrington in 2009
Had things worked out a little differently, Jimmy Lowes might have spent this week preparing Warrington for Sunday’s trip to Odsal.
The legendary former Bulls hooker had a spell as Wolves head coach either side of stints as assistant to Paul Cullen and Tony Smith.
Lowes, by his own admission, made mistakes during his ten-month reign and was unseated when Smith arrived in March 2009.
Now, though, he is making a name for himself as a head coach again – only this time in rugby union at Leeds Carnegie.
Lowes succeeded Diccon Edwards at the end of last season and has guided Leeds into the play-offs, encouraging hopes of a return to the Aviva Premiership.
The 44-year-old remains a relative novice in the 15-man code but he has fashioned a youthful, free-scoring and highly-motivated side since leaving his role as assistant coach at Leeds Rhinos.
“The great thing is that the players have been really willing in everything we’ve tried to do,” said Lowes.
“Sometimes it hasn’t worked and has been completely off, and sometimes I haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about!
“But you need a good bunch of blokes and I’ve got that here.
“I found it hard at first to get a grip of the game. I want to try and play a certain way but I have to pull back on some things because union is completely different.
“I have tried stuff and the players have guided me along and pushed me in the right direction.
“I’ve never really pushed rugby league on them… although I do show them a lot of NRL footage!
“But my appreciation and knowledge of rugby union, what it stands for and how’s it played, is now far greater. Promotion is a very real dream.”
Lowes, resplendent in a pair of shorts and a bodywarmer, is speaking in Headingley’s main stand just minutes after Leeds thrashed Cornish Pirates in their final regular league game last Friday.
He got into rugby union when he began playing for West Park Leeds for the fun of it.
Lowes explained: “I live over the road from West Park and I went over and played with the veterans a couple of times.
“Their coaches then got me drunk one night and talked me into playing for the first team.
“I did that for two-and-half years and it was brilliant. Even that didn’t fully prepare me for this job; I’m learning on my feet.”
For all he is enjoying his role, there is no denying where his heart lies.
“Of course I’m a rugby league man,” he adds with a smile.
“I’d love to be a head coach again in Super League and I don’t make any secret of that.
“I love rugby league and probably watch it now more than ever.
“Yes, I made some big mistakes in that ten-month period at Warrington when I was head coach in selection and wanting to get players in but I did try extremely hard.
“When Tony came in, that helped me massively to understand better the head coach’s role.
“I’ve got unfinished business in rugby league but I’m happy here, there’s no question about that.
“This is a brilliant job and I’m having a great time, but it would be even better if we got into the Premiership.”
A two-legged play-off semi-final against London Welsh beckons for Lowes’ men and the winners will face Bristol or Rotherham in the final.
Promotion would cap a remarkable first year in charge for Lowes, who has had plenty of inspirational coaches down the years.
He said: “My time at Hunslet as a young lad went a long way towards setting me up. I had some coaches there who had great attitudes towards rugby.
“I was lucky enough to go to Australia a couple of times and play in a couple of country leagues.
“It wasn’t top-level rugby but again the attitude there was brilliant.
“When I went to Leeds I had a good grounding with some very good players.
“I then got a move to Bradford and I had a fantastic coach in Brian Smith and we went on to be very successful.
“It was just a fantastic period in my career and my life – I had eight years there and I loved every minute of it.”
After a glorious period in the history of the Bulls, Lowes remains iconic.
“Brian Smith opened my eyes to a different world in rugby,” remembered the 1997 Man of Steel.
“His analysis of games and players was second to none; I’ve never met anybody as good as that.
“Matt Elliott took over and he was another good rugby man before Brian Noble then inherited what was a really good side.
“It was a great place to be; the fans were brilliant with me and I hold the club dear to my heart.”
Lowes, like so many former Bradford players of his era, has watched the club’s decline with great sadness in recent times.
He said: “There is just something not right about it all. It’s just so sad that the club has got into such a state but I think they can stay up.
“Results need to start happening pretty quickly but the teams at the bottom are very catchable.”
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