Talking Sport Now & Then: Meet the rugby coach also at home on the farm

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Chris Plume brings a wealth of top-flight experience to his role as Doncaster RLFC assistant coach.

Plume took his first steps into the coaching ranks as a 22 year-old working under Jon Sharp at Huddersfield Giants.

He joined Leeds Rhinos’ community department in 2007, gradually working his way up to become the club’s academy coach.

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In all he spent ten years at the Headingley club, six working as assistant to head coach Brian McDermott – who enjoyed a spell with the Dons towards the end of his career.

Chris Plume, pictured at Linthwaite Farm, Wentworth.Chris Plume, pictured at Linthwaite Farm, Wentworth.
Chris Plume, pictured at Linthwaite Farm, Wentworth.

“We had a fair bit of success and won a few trophies while I was there,” reflected Plume. “I was lucky to be working with such a talented team.”

What did he learn from the club’s success during that period?

“You need a load of good players steered in the right direction by a really good head coach who is firm and strong so that the players all know what they are doing,” he said.

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“It is all very well having a talented team, and you can name a lot of clubs over the years who have had those but who haven’t been successful as they perhaps should have been because the players haven’t all pulled in the same direction or done the right things at the right time.”

Plume left the club in 2017 and headed up the sports department at Worksop College.

He then joined forces again with McDermott at Toronto Woolpack and played his part in the Canadian club winning promotion to the Super League in 2019.

Unfortunately, their joy was short-lived.

“We played the first few weeks of the 2020 season before everything shut down due to covid,” recalled Plume.

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“I had some great times at Leeds (where he worked with such as Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield) but the most exciting part of my career has been working at Toronto. I just feel that it is a massive shame that the game didn’t take that opportunity to expand to Canada.

“I don’t think the (British) game ever supported Toronto. Yet they averaged crowds that most clubs over here don’t get as well as sponsorship and other revenue which we don’t get over here.

“But for covid I think Toronto would have been massively successful but we’ll never know.

“But my gut instinct is that they would have been given what was happening behind the scenes at the club even though they needed to improve in certain areas which I am sure that they would have done going forward. Don’t forget they were a fledgling club.”

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Plume went back to work on the family farm near Rotherham prior to seeing the Doncaster job advertised in 2021.

“I was missing the game and still thought that I had something to offer, and that I could help Rich (Horne) and Carl (Hall) get the club where they wanted it to be and felt that I could fit it in alongside my job on the farm.”

It is a partnership of two different personalities which has worked well.

“Chris has been fantastic,” said head coach Horne. “He’s worked at the top level and I brought him in because I thought he would challenge me as a coach as I would him.”

Plume doesn’t pull his punches on occasions.

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“It’s how he works and how he operates and I like it and the players like it,” said the former Great Britain star. “Sometimes you’ve got to be brutally honest with players and let them know when a performance isn’t good enough.

“Our partnership works well. Sometimes we butt heads but it’s a great (working relationship). As a (head) coach you always want to be challenged even by the players because it keeps you on your toes and helps you develop as a coach.”

*I don’t know how many Doncaster Rovers’ fans could bear to take in the League Two play-off final between Crawley and Crewe at Wembley following the disappointment of the club’s semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat against the Railwaymen a week earlier.

As I said in my previous column, the chance of playing at the national stadium doesn’t come along all that often for clubs like Rovers.

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There is no doubting that the new Wembley is impressive and it was a magical day covering the Rovers-Leeds game there back in 2008.

But for me it lacks the aura of the original stadium even though it was showing its age long before the time the decision was made to replace it.

Back in the day it was probably twice the size of the biggest club stadium in the country and the lush turf was in stark contrast to the bare pitches at the end of the league season.

That is what helped make it special for me and, I suspect, a lot of other people of my generation.

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*I have been moved by the media reaction to the passing of former Leeds Rhinos star Rob Burrow whose battle with MND has captured the hearts of millions of people in the last few years.

Rugby League is increasingly ignored by certain sections of the media these days for various reasons – some of which go back many years – and as such the feats of some of the game’s greatest stars often go unnoticed outside of its traditional heartlands.

But thanks, in part to BBC Breakfast following Rob’s story, his skills, at least, have had national exposure.

His close friendship with Scottish RU international and fellow sufferer, Doddie Weir, also helped bring the two rugby codes – which have often been bitter rivals – closer together.

Having enjoyed playing and reporting on both codes over the years I would love that to continue.

If it did it would provide a truly lasting legacy for both men.