The Dusseldorf Panther, one of the storied clubs in German Football League history, winners of the GFL title six times, have returned to the top league with a vengeance with the signing of Australian John Leijten as their new head coach.
After suffering through a winless 0-15 season in 2016 and being relegated to Germany’s second division, the Panther are looking to make a statement in 2019 and so have signed the 53 year old Leijten, former head coach for the Dresden Monarchs and also Team Outback, Australia’s national team.
In his four seasons with the Monarchs (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017), Leijten compiled a 38-12-2 record reaching the GFL semifinals four times and the quarterfinals once. While he was head coach in Dresden, the team was constantly ranked among the top six teams in Europe.
Prior to signing with Dresden in 2013, Leijten was coaching in Australia, and as head coach of the Australian national team – The Outback – in 2011, surprised the world in the 2011 IFAF World Championships with the team’s performances against the top teams in the tournament.
Leijten’s coaching career started in 1991 when as defensive coordinator for the Tilburg Steelers, in Holland he helped the club win the Dutch national championships in both 1991 and 1992 while reaching the playoff finals in 1994. From 1994 to 1999 he was head coach of the Vught Black Rhinos before moving to the Cologne Crocodiles in the German league in 2000 as defensive coordinator. The Crocodiles won the German Bowl that year and Leijten’s coaching skills were noticed by Jeff Reinebold, then defensive backs and special teams coach for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. Leijten joined Amsterdam in 2001 as running backs coach. He switched to linebackers with the Admirals teams that won the 2005 World Bowl championship, and made the championship final in 2006.
After the demise of the NFL Europa in 2007, Leijten returned to Australia. In 2008 Leijten organized football camps for junior players in Melbourne. He coached the Western Crusaders club side and Australia’s national team.
In 2009 Leijten acted as an interim defensive coach to prepare the Aix-En-Provence Argonautsfor the 2009 French playoffs. The Argonauts reached the French semi final that year, where they were knocked out by the La Courneuve Flash.
Although born in Australia, Leijten was raised in Holland where he played linebacker for the Tilburg Sting from 1984–1986 and the Rotterdam Trojans from 1988–1990.