Aussie star Matt Prior to link up with Leeds Rhinos between Christmas and new year
AUSTRALIAN RECRUIT Matt Prior will link up with Leeds Rhinos between Christmas and new year.
The 32-year-old forward signed a two-year contract at the end of last month, but has yet to arrive in Leeds.
Rhinos’ new No 10 has been training with his previous club, Cronulla Sharks and Leeds coach Richard Agar is confident the final month of pre-season will give him enough time to learn the ropes before the Betfred Super League opener at home to Hull on Sunday, February 2.
“Matty gets here between Christmas and new year,” Agar confirmed. “We were happy with that. The move came about fairly late, we didn’t agree until a few weeks ago and it is a big move for him, with a young kid.
“He was able to train with Cronulla up until Christmas and we thought packing up in a hurry could potentially cause him more problems.
“It gives him time to get all his domestic situation sorted and get a house rented over here and he says goodbye to his family on his terms, rather than having to rush over here.”
Prior has more than 250 NRL appearances to his name and played for New South Wales in the 2018 State of Origin series.
“He is in good shape,” Agar added. “It still gives us a month. He is a player who has played for a long time and played in rep’ teams so he will know his role very, very quickly.
“There’s some familiar faces for him in our squad who he has played with before, in Ava [Seumanufagai] and Cuthbo [Adam Cuthbertson].
“It is a little bit different to getting a half-back in in January – with a middle you would back yourself to assimilate him into the squad pretty quickly.
“Last season we had a number of guys who came in late and quickly came to terms with what we wanted from them.”
Rhinos have left two squad numbers, 20 and 21, vacant for other new signings.
They have been inundated with interest from agents in Australia and are likely to target another overseas addition once a space opens on Leeds’ foreign quota after Rhyse Martin receives a Papua New Guinea passport. They are also keen to bring in another English player and are prepared to wait, rather than make panic moves before the season begins.
Rhinos’ pre-season campaign opens a week today when they take on visitors Wakefield Trinity in the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge.
“We are still six weeks away from the competition and we know we’ve got a lot to cover but, at the same time, I am really happy with the way the boys are progressing,” Agar insisted.
“I am really happy with the way they are attacking the work and their spirit, but also the combinations are starting to evolve. We’ve progressed, in the last week or so, on to more team stuff. I’ve always been pretty confident we have a smart bunch of players.
“We spent a lot of time this year trying to underpin them with skill – playing a lot of footy games, competing in games and bits of ad-lib football – so when the structured stuff comes I was really confident with the people we’ve got in place and the experience we have, that it would all drop into place pretty quickly and we’d start to see relationships and different combinations start to evolve.
“They’ve done that pretty well so far. Nothing beats replicating it in match conditions, but – where we are so far – I could not ask for anything more from the players. They have been terrific.”