Leeds Rhinos: Moon and Hall miss Rhinos trip to Florida

Ryan Hall
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LEEDS RHINOS will fly to America without two of their senior players.

Rhinos’ left-side combination of winger Ryan Hall and centre Joel Moon have been left behind because their partners are heavily pregnant.

Teenagers Cameron Smith and Mikolaj Oledzki will make the trip in their place.

The treble-winners will jet to the United States tomorrow for a week-long training camp based at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville.

It is the fifth time Leeds have visited the city and their second trip in as many years.

The camp will include a game on Sunday against the United States national team, who are coached by Rhinos boss Brian McDermott.

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “The team will be going without Ryan and Joel.

“We were hoping their wives would give birth before yesterday afternoon. If they had done, the players would have gone to the camp, but as it is they will now be staying at home.

“It is just one of those things and the beneficiaries are Cameron Smith and Mikolaj Oledzki, who will be going instead.”

Smith has played in both Rhinos pre-season games so far. Oledzki became the first Polish-born player to appear in a Rhinos first team fixture when he came off the bench in the Lazenby Cup win at Hunslet Hawks last Friday.

Hall and Moon both played in last year’s league leaders’ shield, Challenge Cup and Super League Grand Final-winning teams and Hetherington said them missing the camp will not disrupt Rhinos’ preparations for the season opener against Warrington Wolves on Thursday, February 4.

“It is disappointing for them, but will be a great experience for Cameron and Mikolaj,” Hetherington added.

“They are only just 17 and they’ve both played in the first team before the academy, which is quite remarkable.

“It will be a great experience for all the young lads, such as Ashton Golding, Ash Handley, Jordan Lilley and Jordan Baldwinson.

“We have got quite a lot of new faces in the squad and it is a really good opportunity to train together in a completely different environment, with outstanding facilities.”

The trip is well-timed for Rhinos, following the Boxing Day floods which put their Kirkstall training base out of action.

“The team will be able to get some real good quality training done, in one place,” Hetherington said.

“We are currently utilising a variety of different facilities.”

Rhinos have developed close links with rugby league organisers in America and particularly the Jacksonville Axemen.

McDermott was in charge of the United States team when they beat Jamaica and Canada to qualify for the 2017 World Cup.

The Leeds boss is likely to give all his players on the camp a run out in Sunday’s practice match and Hetherington said: “It will be an interesting experience for Brian. He has obviously got some inside knowledge on the opposition.”

McDermott is expected to field his strongest-available side when Rhinos face Bradford Bulls in Carl Ablett’s testimonial game on Sunday, January 24.

A mainly under-19s lineup could feature when they conclude their pre-season schedule away to Featherstone Rovers a week later.

Rhinos also have a trial game at Doncaster on Sunday, February 7, three days after their Super League opener.

Kallum Watkins (Picture: David Neilson/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ)

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