LEEDS RHINOS need to start thinking about how to replace their veteran props, boss Brian McDermott has admitted.
But the coach is confident Jamie Peacock, 36 and Kylie Leuluai, who will celebrate that birthday next month, will still be outstanding performers for Rhinos this season.
Peacock recently signed a new two-year contract and confirmed he will hang up his boots at the end of 2015.
Leuluai is on a rolling contract and will consider his future mid-way through this year.
“Concern is the wrong word, but I will say that it is something we are mindful of,” McDermott said of the age of his two leading front-rowers.
“They are both mid-30s and we have got to be aware of that. There is going to come a point in time – it won’t be this year – when they can’t take to the field either on a game day or in training. Usually it is in training when they start pulling up, but that’s nowhere near yet. JP is looking in the best shape I have seen him for a while.
“I said that building up to the 2013 season and he is looking in even better shape this year. Look what a season he had last year.
“Kylie is looking great, again. He went home to Australia, trained over there and has come back in great shape.
“How they are operating and where their minds are at, that suggests to me they are going to be okay this year.”
Leuluai has won five Grand Finals since joining Leeds in 2007.
Peacock is the most decorated player in the game, with eight Super League titles, two Challenge Cup wins and four World Club Challenge triumphs to his credit.
He joined Rhinos from Bradford Bulls ahead of the 2006 season and was Leeds’ player of the year last term.
McDermott added: “When they pack in we have got to make sure we can fill their spot with somebody else of equal ability, but that is easier said than done.
“I am all for the youth, absolutely. The future of this club is in the youth and the next generation coming through, but at the same time we have got to manage the here and now.
“Until we can find some juniors and they come through and are ready to take over and perform at the level that JP and Kylie do week in and week out, we have got to manage the situation.
“We have to manage when do those fellas retire and is there much of a blip for the next fellas taking over?”
McDermott, who packed down alongside Peacock at Bradford Bulls, feels modern players are able to carry on their career for longer than in the past.
“When the sport went full-time I was a player and everybody trained too hard and for too long,” he said.
“We incurred injuries, but there was an attitude of ‘only soft blokes get injured’ and ‘never report to the physios’ and ‘never get a massage’.
“I heard it said a million times, ‘good ones don’t need it and bad ones aren’t worth it’.
“That all sounded well and good and we went home in our cars stiff as anything and wondering how we were going to get through training the following day.
“But people are smarter now – conditioners, physios and coaches.
“Sports science has had a good bearing on all sport. In our contact sport it is remarkable JP and Kylie can still play at this level, but they do lead a very good life.
“Attention to detail on diet is the one single thing that has improved the most. We probably train them harder, but not for as long.
“We get them to consider things a lot more, they are exposed to better training techniques and they all have their diet sorted out.
“Not just for a short period –they live that life and it’s having a good bearing.”