Coach Brian McDermott has dropped the biggest hint yet that he will remain in charge of the Rhinos in 2017.
McDermott, who is on a rolling contract with the 2015 champions, has been linked with the vacancy at Hull KR, Leeds’ opponents in the last match of the regular Super League season tonight.
“I neither deny nor confirm those rumours,” McDermott said before stressing his wish to be part of a brighter future at Rhinos following their failure to finish in the top eight this year.
“We’ve all been through an experience this club has never been through before and, if you can come through the other side, there is a vast amount to learn and you will be far better for it,” he said.
“But most coaches go through this type of turmoil and never get to learn those lessons because they either duck out and resign or the club sacks them.
“What we’ve done is go through that really tough moment together. The club has held its nerve, although it’s certainly asked questions.
“We’ve got a season review to go through and there will be some tough questions to ask but we’re going to come out of it in absolutely far better shape. Our team is going to be really healthy next year.
“That’s not to say we’re going to win every game but some of the toughness that the fellas have had to show his year will make them stronger. You wouldn’t plan it but, once you come through it, you’re glad it’s happened.”
Although McDermott’s men have endured their worst season for 20 years, 12 months on from becoming only the third team to complete the modern-day treble, they have re-discovered their form with four wins from their last five matches.
McDermott hopes to take that form into the Super 8s Qualifiers, which determines the final make-up of Super League for 2017, and insists the game against Hull KR is crucial to ending the year on a high.
“We can finish ninth and that’s hugely important because we get more home games and we want to play as many home games as we can,” he said.
“There is still a scenario where we can finish bottom and we don’t want to do that. We also want to be going into the middle-eights on the back of a run of performances which we can be proud of. Without kicking up old dust, we’ve been in some places this year we haven’t been that proud about. To have a bit of pride, some integrity about how we’re operating in recent weeks has been big for us.
“Hull KR are going to be a challenge – they got beat by Hull so they will want to turn that around – and every team in the middle-eights will want to go into them on the back of a win.
“For us we’re trying to hang onto some things that we’ve been creating for about six weeks now.”
McDermott says revenge will also be on his players’ minds as they look to atone for a surprise 30-10 home defeat by Rovers on April 1: “That was a dark day that, so we owe them one.
“That was our poorest performance, we were absolutely awful that day and Hull KR were smart enough to exploit that.”
McDermott has included captain Danny McGuire in his 19-man squad and, although he does not expect him to play, he is able to add prop Mitch Garbutt to a near full-strength team, a far cry from mid-season when at times he was without 10 senior players through injury.
“I don’t think Danny is going to play,” McDermott said
“Obviously we have some big games coming up and don’t want to run the risk of further injury.
“But we’re reasonably healthy, this team will be the strongest we’ve had all year.”