The big talking point around the Rhinos this week has been the news that Jordan Baldwinson and Mason Tonks have signed for New Zealand Warriors from next season.
It is a shame for the club, because Baldy has just broken through into the first team here and Mason is knocking on the door.
They are two highly-rated young players and a lot of effort has gone into their development, but I can totally understand their decision to go.
Being such young lads, I think they’ve got an opportunity to head over there and show what they can do, but if it doesn’t work out they could come back into the team here as better, more experienced players.
I hope something can be worked out to give the Rhinos first refusal if they do decide to come home, though at the same time I really hope it goes well for them both and they can have a good career over there.
What people have to realise is that potentially neither of them is going to play first team regularly for Leeds next year or probably the season after.
Kylie Leuluai has signed a new rolling deal, Jamie Peacock is going strong and Ryan Bailey and Ian Kirke have both got two-year contracts.
That means if they stayed here they’d probably be going out on loan or playing for Hunslet on dual-registration most of the time.
No disrespect to Hunslet, but they obviously feel they are going to learn and develop more as players by going into the Warriors’ under-20s squad – plus it’ll be a great life experience for them.
As I’ve mentioned in this column in the past, I think defections to the NRL are going to be a real concern for Super League over the next year or two. With their higher salary cap and the amount of money splashing around in the game Down Under, they could potentially take whichever players they want.
The gap between the two countries is so huge now, they can pick and choose players from over here and that is a big worry. Clubs like Leeds try to get young stars on long-term deals, but as we’ve seen at Wigan, that doesn’t seem to make much difference if an Aussie outfit decide they want a particular player.
It will be interesting to see how all this pans out, because I’ve been a bit disappointed in the standard of the Super League competition this year and I don’t think it can afford to lose many more of its best players.
Having said all that, one player who won’t be going to Australia is Ryan Bailey.
At least three clubs in the NRL were interested in him, but it was great for us when he decided to sign a new two-year deal here.
Having played alongside Bails throughout my time at the Rhinos, I have the utmost respect for him. I know he has a love-hate relationship with fans – the Leeds supporters love him and the opposition hate him.
But I think if you can get other teams’ fans that worked up, you must be doing something right. You can’t judge a book by its cover and actually Bails is a quiet lad who’s really popular in our group.
I think he’s one of the most under-rated players in the competition, but probably one of those you don’t really appreciate until you’ve played alongside him.
He never gives in, he works hard every game and he puts his hand up when you need him, when it really matters.
He is 29 and forwards don’t really find their peak until they hit 30, so there’s definitely more to come from him.
JP and Kylie have proved props can play at a very high level into their mid or late 30s and I reckon in a few years’ time Bails will be having a similar impact.