TEAM SELECTION for next year will “take care of itself” Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott says.
McDermott was given food for thought when a below-strength side thrashed Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 50-28 in the Tetley’s Festive Challenge on Boxing Day.
Teenage winger Ash Handley, who is beginning a three-year full-time contract, scored five tries and there were impressive performances from several other young players, including full-back Ashton Golding, winger James Duckworth and prop Robbie Mulhern.
Tom Briscoe made an important contribution out of position at left-centre and Danny McGuire and Liam Sutcliffe shone as Leeds’ half-back pairing.
Rhinos’ England players are not due to begin pre-season training with their team-mates until next week and several other big-name players – including Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Brett Delaney and Joel Moon, who are all recovering from injury – did not feature in Friday’s squad.
Rhinos have yet to allocate their No 25 jersey for 2015, but despite his makeshift side’s impressive display, McDermott, insisted: “I don’t think there’s a selection dilemma. I think selection will take care of itself.
“I don’t really lie awake at night worrying about who will I play where and how.
“We have some standards and some objectives and the best player will get the shirt.
“If towards mid-way through next year or the early part of next year somebody becomes available and we feel they can improve the squad – not just fill the number, but improve the squad – we will look at that.”
“McDermott added: “I thought Rob Mulhern did a job when he came on, as he did last season. Also Jordan Lilley came on as a half-back and didn’t look out of place at all. These are one-off games and we’ve got to be careful not to get too excited, but in terms of decisions to be made, the players will make those decisions by how they perform.”
Rhinos’ players have been given time off until the new year and will head to Florida on January 7 for a pre-season camp, including a trial game against a local team.
McDermott is hopeful Australian recruit Adam Cuthbertson will be available for that match, despite suffering a shoulder injury against Wakefield.
“I thought he looked well,” McDermott said of the forward’s first appearance for Leeds.
“We signed him on for a certain role and he pretty much showed everybody what he’s got.
“He has got a good mix of doing the tough stuff as well as some of the nice little subtle efforts that he’s got.”
McDermott plans to field a full-strength side in Jamie Peacock’s testimonial game at Headingley Carnegie against Bradford Bulls on January 25.
Fringe and academy players will feature in Rhinos’ other warm-up games, away to Kingstone Press Championship teams Hunslet Hawks on January 18 and Doncaster, on February 1.