LEEDS RHINOS have to aim high this year, their England winger Ryan Hall says.
Rhinos – who kick off their Betfred Super League campaign away to St Helens next Thursday – are looking to regain lost pride after a disastrous 2016 campaign which saw them miss out on a place in the play-offs for the first time.
The previous year’s treble-winners lost 16 of their opening 19 matches in all competitions and were in serious relegation danger until form picked up in the second half of the season.
They climbed to ninth at the end of the regular rounds and topped the Qualifiers table, made up of Super League’s bottom-four and the leading quartet from the Kingstone Press Championship.
Eleven victories from their final 13 games restored a little pride and gave Leeds something to build on.
But Hall admitted last year was not good enough and he insisted they can’t just focus on being better this term, they have to set their stall out to get back among the trophies and major finals.
“If you go into a season and you don’t aim to be successful and achieve something you have set off in the wrong manner,” he said.
“If you set off wanting to be mediocre you aren’t taking the right approach.
“You have got to set out to try and achieve something and to be the best team and that’s what we are trying to achieve, in all competitions.
“We want to be the best team we can be and if that leads to some silverware, jolly good!”
Battling against the drop – in a year when they also fell at the first hurdle in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup – was a new experience for Rhinos’ players and coaching staff.
Hall, who is in his testimonial season, is hoping the old saying ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ proves to be accurate in their case.
“Only time will tell, but we certainly think we are,” Hall said.
“I’ve been talking to Jamie Jones-Buchanan and he was saying his first year [in Leeds’ senior squad] didn’t go very well at all.
“It was a bit similar to the season we had last year and he said he wouldn’t change his first year because he learned so much from it.
“As long as we can look back and say we’ve learned lessons from last year, I think it will make us stronger.”
Hall returned to training before Christmas, a month later than most of his team-mates, after featuring in all four of England’s autumn internationals.
He reckons Rhinos are going into the new campaign in good shape and high spirits.
“Everybody is smiling, which is good,” he reported.
“Nobody’s been dragging themselves in thinking ‘oh no, another day’.
“Everyone’s happy and enjoying themselves and looking forward to what’s ahead, which is a good sign.
“It has certainly been different to pre-seasons I’ve had before, but time will really tell how it has been.”