Jon Burnell was the first coach of the new-look Essex & Herts Leopards. He’s promised to do an up-to-date interview for his history, but in the build-up to the 2012 National Cup final he did an interview with Leopards’ stat-man Tony Shorey.
1. You were a player for the Ware Rebels who became the Leopards, how did you find the transition into being the head coach?
The transition started when I was playing for Rebels at Stevenage. The American head coach at the time, who incidentally was an assistant to Billy Mims at the original Leopards, left the team during the season, and I was asked to take on the role as player/coach. Then the following season I was asked to assist Mark Clark as player/assistant. Mark was not able to complete the season as Head Coach, he therefore asked me to take on the role as Head Coach. It was a natural transition, but just seemed to have happened gradually. (Mark stitched me up!!!!!)
2. What are your memories of the Cup winning season, having had a few player changes along the way. How did you end up with the winning team?
Simple. We had the winning team together for the mid part of the season. We recruited Demetrius Williams mid season which made what was already a good team click. But the season was unsettled following the Cup Final after losing Williams to Europe.
3. Did you prepare differently for the Final than a normal League game?
Yes, we did. We knew we would be playing Reading so had time to plan. We knew where their strengths lay and planned our defensive set up slightly different to normal. We had weeks to set this up, rather than the week to week planning in the regular season.
4. I remember you saying you were so confident of winning that you took two suits to the game so you could look sharp in the post game celebrations, what gave
you such confidence?
Having a team with many special characters shall we say, it was all bravado and a showing of confidence. If I believed, they believed. I also knew the special ones would be up to their tricks, cutting ties and throwing water butts around so I knew I would need something to travel home in either way!! (They got both suits anyway!)
5. You are now coaching at Hemel alongside your Cup Final coaching opponent Dave Titmuss, how are you finding it?
Having played for Coach T as a junior and senior, internationally, and coached against and now with him, our 30 year relationship has come full circle. We have always been friends. Working with Coach T at Storm is first class. His levels of preparation and attention to detail are second to none. I am always learning and improving my coaching skills with both senior & junior teams. All very enjoyable.