LEEDS RHINOS’ aim for 2017 is to “win everything”, coach Brian McDermott says.
McDermott insists his side are focused on more than just climbing the table as they bid to bounce back from last year’s disastrous campaign.
Rhinos went from treble winners two seasons ago to ninth in Super League 2016, but have brought in just three new signings – two of them from the Championship – since their final game of last year.
Asked – at Rhinos’ media launch for the new season earlier today – how optimistic he is about the coming campaign, McDermott said: “We aim to win everything, that’s what we aim to do.”
The three-time Grand Final-winning coach stressed: “I think setting your team any sort of targets or goals, they’ve got to be realistic, they’ve got to be within a timescale and they’ve got to be credible – can your team do that?
“I don’t think I’d be incredible if I say ‘well look, if we pick up a trophy we’ll be all right’. That’s what we’ll aim for.
“Now, in context of where this team’s been at for the last 18 months, it’s a big call, but I don’t think it’s an unrealistic call.
“I’ve run this past the players already and none of their eyes dropped, nobody broke eye contact, they were straight for it.
“Can I predict what happens? No, I can’t – but you know what our intentions are.”
Questioned about targets for the league campaign and if Leeds were focusing first on the top eight or top four, McDermott added: “We get a shield for being first past the post, the league leaders’ shield.
“We want that, that’s the big thing for us.
“Especially with the format of the comp’ now, to finish top of the pile after all those 30 rounds, that’s a big thing.
“Obviously there’s some mini-targets and goals we want to be good at, but in terms of getting in the top eight first, then we get in the top four, we need to go straight for top spot.”
Rhinos have expanded their full-time squad from 25 to 30 players and McDermott said further additions are not expected.
He stated: “We’re happy with the squad, there’s no need.
“We’ll be good enough. The squad we’ve got’s good enough.”
McDermott said nobody in Leeds’ camp has forgotten about what happened last year, but he stressed: “We’ve moved on.
“We’ve reminded ourselves in this pre-season of who we are, what we are about and some of that honesty we’ve got about us and some of the hard work and some of the enjoyment as well.
“This pre-season has been one of the most enjoyable we’ve all had for quite some time. We’re looking forward to this year.”
Meanwhile, McDermott will field his strongest-available squad for Ryan Hall’s testimonial game against Hull KR at Headingley tomorrow.
Forwards Stevie Ward and Brett Ferres, who have been carrying injuries during the off-season, will not be risked.
McDermott said they could miss Rhinos’ Betfred Super League opener at St Helens three weeks tonight, but have not yet been ruled out.