Hetherington makes Leeds pledge
March 9, 2008
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington insists relegation from the Guinness Premiership will not deter the club from building a bigger and better squad.
The Yorkshiremen suffered 30-13 defeat to Bristol at Headingley, their 14th loss from 15 Premiership outings this season and the result left Stuart Lancaster's men rock-bottom of the table with a pitiful tally of just six points.
An immediate return to the National One is beckoning but Hetherington will tomorrow fly to Sydney to scout potential signings for Leeds and their sister club, engage Super League outfit Leeds Rhinos.
Hetherington - who claimed he expects highly-rated wing Tom Biggs to remain at Headingley if Leeds are relegated - has failed to sign the quality of player that would have made Lancaster's men competitive in the Premiership.
However, he said: ''Irrespective of whichever division we are in next season, it will not alter the plans and the strategy at all.
''That is to retain our better quality players and add at least six new players.
''That was the strategy for this season and will be the same for next season.
''This season has proved to be very, very frustrating because whilst the resources have been there - and still are - the players haven't been.
''There has simply been a lack of availability of players which could have enhanced our squad.
''The search continues and we are determined that the plan will go on unabated.
''That is to get a bigger and better team, and we're looking extensively overseas.
''I'll be travelling to Sydney very much on a player recruitment mission for both the Rhinos and Carnegie.''
Hetherington rebuilt the club following their relegation from the Premiership in May 2006, which sparked a mass exodus of players.
Relegation will force him to do so again but this time from a far stronger position this time around.
Hetherington, who effectively acknowledged relegation is looming, said: ''There is a lot of harmony and strength within the club despite the disappointment of losing to Bristol, which is a very big disappointment for all the stakeholders in the club.
''We've found this a very trying and frustrating season but we want to retain all our better quality players and they're all contracted to the club.''
A second-minute try from Samoa centre Andy Tuilagi helped Leeds into a 13-6 interval lead to encourage hopes of only a second win of the season to keep alive their hopes of survival.
Bristol had other ideas, however, and after Leeds wing John Holtby was sinbinned in the 50th minute, they ran in three tries during a devastating purple patch.
Scrum-half Shaun Perry was the prime beneficiary, touching down in the 51st and 57th minutes before centre Rob Higgitt added a third on the hour mark.
The hat-trick of tries put Bristol in total control and skipper Joe El Abd added a late fourth to secured his side a bonus point.
Bristol coach Richard Hill was simply relieved to finally end his side's dismal record on the road and singled out Perry for special praise.
Hill said: ''For him to come back after a nasty throat injury - it was a bizarre fracture of the windpipe - and play like that showed what he can do.
''He bullocked his way over for two tries and I was very pleased with the second-half performance from the boys.''