AUSSIE FORWARD Mitch Garbutt reckons Leeds Rhinos’ future is in good hands.
Twenty-six-year-old Garbutt and Mitch Achurch, 27, were the only players aged over 21 in Rhinos’ squad for last Friday’s Lazenby Cup-tie at Kingstone Press League One neighbours Hunslet Hawks.
Leeds’ young side secured a 22-18 victory thanks to academy winger Charlie Brown’s last-gasp try and Garbutt was impressed by the quality of players coming through the ranks.
“I thought they played really well,” the former Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos front-rower said of his rookie team-mates.
“Jordan Lilley and Ashton Golding again showed they are more than good enough to play in the first team every week.
“They played really well and the front-rower Mikolaj [Oledzki] is a big strong thing and he played really well when he was on. He’s only 17 and he’s going to be a scary thing when he fills out!
“I thought all the young kids really put their hand up and performed reasonably well.
“I think the development side of Leeds will be really happy with how they performed. They have got a lot of good players.”
This time last year Garbutt was in pre-season training with Brisbane. He admitted, especially after the mild winter so far, a January night at South Leeds Stadium was a shock to the system.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” he conceded. “I knew it was going to be cold, but I have never played in anything like that.
“It wasn’t raining, but I needed to thaw out afterwards. I came in at a good time last year, I got all the good weather, but it is what it is.
“It was a tough slog out and I think everyone will benefit from it.”
Rhinos’ first-team squad were jetting to Florida today for a week-long training camp in Jacksonville.
After Friday’s experience, Garbutt couldn’t wait to board the flight. He said: “It will be chance to thaw out.
“Everyone’s excited about the trip. Whenever you get to go away with your team-mates it is always good fun.”
The camp will allow Rhinos to work with the ball after being disrupted by the recent wet weather and the loss of their Kirkstall training base to flooding.
“We haven’t really done any skills stuff together,” Garbutt said. “We’ve been training really hard and we’ve done a lot of physical work so we are going to be ready for when the season comes. It might take a little while for combinations to click, but I am really excited about this year. Hopefully we can have another good year.”
England international Brett Ferres joined Rhinos last week from Huddersfield Giants and Garbutt believes he will improve the squad. He said: “He is a very talented player. He seems a good fella and he has fitted into the squad really well. He has got a lot to offer the team and I’m sure we’ll see the best of him at the club.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos winger Ryan Hall and wife Vicky are celebrating the birth of a baby daughter.
Hall will not be travelling to Florida, in order to spend time with the new arrival.