KIWI forward Weller Hauraki has been told he still has a big role to play for Leeds Rhinos this season.
Hauraki has been left out of the side for Leeds’ last two matches and played in the under-20s at Castleford last Friday.
But coach Brian McDermott today insisted Hauraki – who joined Rhinos over the winter from Saturday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup opponents Crusaders – is not out of favour.
And he said the player’s absence from the team is due more to the good form of the other back-rowers, than his own performances this year.
“I am not disappointed with Weller,” McDermott stated. “There is nothing untoward going on.
“Rather than talking about Weller, we should be focusing on Chris Clarkson, who has been very good.
“He has been a very good defender and a very reliable ball carrier.
“At the moment Weller finds himself trying to get into the team, but he is a very good player and I am sure when he gets a chance he will make it difficult for us to keep him out the week after.
“He will just have to wait until he gets a chance and when he does, he has got to grab it.”
McDermott also hailed the way Carl Ablett and Jamie Jones-Buchanan have played in recent games and he added: “Weller has still got a lot to contribute.
“He will certainly feature in the coming weeks. He is not a million miles off, he is just on the outside at the moment.”
McDermott rested hooker Danny Buderus and prop Ryan Bailey last weekend and he admitted he has some tough decisions to make for forthcoming matches.
With Rhinos’ injury situation now improving, McDermott needs to strike a balance between giving weary players a rest and fielding his strongest-possible side.
“We’ve had some fellas carrying some stuff (injuries) for a while now,” he confirmed. “Kevin Sinfield is carrying some bumps and bruises and Jamie Jones-Buchanan is the same, but we’ve not been able to do anything about it.
“We do need to rest people and if we have got the ability, we will look at that, but at the same time, we want to field our strongest team.”
McDermott hinted he is considering giving his main play-makers a breather.
He said: “We have got to keep people fresh and ready for the rest of the season.
“The interesting thing about it is that (front-rowers) Kylie Leuluai, Ryan Bailey and Jamie Peacock have been in and out with injury and they are feeling relatively fresh. They are ready and they aren’t looking for a break, but Kev Sinfield, Rob Burrow and Brent Webb have played nearly every minute of every game.
“It is up to everybody else to take on the mantle and push us forward and not wait for these guys to do that.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos’ home game against Warrington Wolves on Friday, May 27, will be broadcast live on Sky TV.
No Rhinos, Castleford Tigers or Wakefield Trinity Wildcats players have been referred to today’s RFL disciplinary hearing, following last weekend’s game.
Tigers’ Paul Jackson received an official caution for a “dangerous throw” on Rhinos’ Chris Clarkson in the 20th minute of last Friday’s derby.
Hull KR’s Scott Taylor was cautioned for “dangerous contact” with Wildcats’ Frankie Mariano in the 42nd minute of Sunday’s game.
lRhinos fans will have the chance to have their photograph taken with the Carnegie Challenge Cup at the White Rose Shopping Centre tomorrow.
Ali Lauitiiti and Ben Jones-Bishop will attend to sign autographs for fans between 2.00pm and 3.00pm ahead of their home Carnegie Challenge Cup fourth round tie against Crusaders on Saturday.