VETERAN JAMIE JONES-BUCHANAN is looking on the bright side of Leeds Rhinos’ tumble from the penthouse to the basement.
Last year’s treble-winners are two points adrift at the foot of First Utility Super League and facing a battle for top-flight survival when the Qualifiers begin next month.
It has been a disastrous season for Rhinos, who have lost 17 of their 22 competitive matches, but Jones-Buchanan believes it could make them stronger in the future.
“It’s a new experience and to increase your awareness and intelligence you need to learn and be in environments and places you’ve never been,” said the six-time Grand Final winner.
“While I would never, ever have envisaged or aimed to be in the position we are at, it is what it is and the only positive outcome is to learn as much as we can from this experience.
“Who knows? In two or three years’ time – or four years or 10 years – the lessons we’ve learned in 2016 might become invaluable, not just for me, but for the club in general.”
Jones-Buchanan admitted insisted nobody at the club is happy with the current situation, but he reckons things are improving.
He said: “It is tough. I don’t want to be in the middle-eights fighting to stay in Super League, but we are going to do that and I don’t think we are in a really bad position.
“I think we are in a better position that we have been all year so I am positive going forward into it and I’ll look forward to the challenge.”
The 34-year-old former England forward played only 11 games last year due to injury, but has featured in Rhinos’ last 17 fixtures after making his comeback four months ago.
“That’s the flip side of it,” he said. “If you look at the last two years, I have been injured for quite a lot of it, but I have made a few adjustments, I have probably trained less and been a bit smarter about my age.
“I don’t think my fitness has decreased any and I have been able to get through games feeling absolutely fantastic.
“I will see where I am at at the end of this season and hopefully go again next year.”
Jones-Buchanan reckons his personal fortunes have been exactly the opposite of what the team has gone through over the past two seasons.
“Last year my team went and won every trophy without me,” he recalled.
“I had played in every final up to that point, but I missed out on that and it was quite a tough, adverse year.
“I had every reason to sulk and be disappointed, even though everybody else was jumping up and down.
“But I decided I want to jump up and down because I love this club and it is not just about me, it is about Leeds Rhinos and I just want to be a small part of this culture. Now I am back in the team, I feel strong, I am playing every week and the team is where it is!
“It is almost a complete reversal. This is a massively bizarre thing.”
l Former Leeds Rhinos, Great Britain and England forward Jamie Peacock has been added to Wayne Bennett’s staff as England team manager for this year’s Four Nations tournament.
Peacock, currently football manager at Hull KR and capped 47 times (GB 26, England 21), will join Denis Betts and Paul Wellens in the England backroom staff. He will be responsible for team planning and logistics, day-to-day management of the tournament programme, manage relationships with the RFL, clubs and sponsors, and will lead on player support.
“I feel privileged to have been offered the position,” said Peacock. “Representing my country was always the proudest moments of my career, and being team manager will feel exactly the same.”