Bentley targets silverware with hometown club Rhinos

JAMES BENTLEY is enjoying being on the right side of Leeds Rhinos’ players now rather than spending time “winding them” all up.

By Dave Craven
Saturday, 4th December 2021, 6:00 am
New Leeds Rhinos signing James Bentley. Picture: Allan McKenzie/
New Leeds Rhinos signing James Bentley. Picture: Allan McKenzie/

The aggressive second-row is stepping up his training with his new club after joining from Super League champions St Helens ahead of the 2022 campaign.

Leaving the double-winners could be seen as a backwards step for some players but not Bentley, who hails from Leeds and is desperate to help get his hometown back lifting that silverware at Old Trafford for the first time in five years.

“I am really enjoying it,” the 24-year-old told The Yorkshire Post after starting training recently.

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“They are a good bunch of lads and I’m really enjoying training. I’ve been impressed with it all.

“It’s good learning new plays and seeing how they want to play and things like that. It’s interesting.

“I know (assistant coach) Sean Long from my Saints days and I played with a few of these guys at Bradford, too.

“But I know most of the lads anyway from playing against them –and winding them up!”

It has to be said that Bentley has earned a reputation for enjoying the niggly side of rugby league; in short, he can be a pest to opponents.

That has seen him banned for kicking out against Wigan Warriors earlier this season and he has picked up a number of yellow cards for ill-discipline.

The Yorkshireman can often be found in running battles with opposition forwards which is sure to make him a favourite with Leeds fans.

But Bentley conceded: “I probably got a little bit too excited and aggressive at times. It is part of my game but I need to be better with it.

“I’m no good to anyone sitting on the sidelines; I need to get on the right side of the refs, not the wrong side.”

He missed out on successive Grand Final glories, though, due to a serious back injury which saw him sidelined for the last month of last term.

But Bentley, who earned his shot with Saints in 2018 after catching the eye at Bradford in the Championship, is training again now and hoping to be available for Rhinos’ Festive Challenge game against Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day.

“My back’s feeling good and I should be flying by the start of the season,” he added.

“I’m not sure yet (on Boxing Day). I’ll have to see how it all goes with my back and we’ll take it from there. If it’s good to go then I’ll be ripping in.

“But, more than anything, I’m looking forward to just getting out there and playing in that shirt.

“Obviously, that will be a proud moment for me and my family.

“I can’t wait to get out there, rip in, do my best for this club and win some trophies.”

The Ireland international, who also missed much of the last campaign with a broken leg, is keen to add to his silverware in Leeds colours.

“Obviously, I had a taste of success with Saints and loved it,” said Bentley, who played almost 50 games for St Helens. “Now I want more. I want that to continue and I think we can do it with Leeds.

“I’m just going to get in the best possible shape to help us do so.”

Leeds are not short of quality back-rows with the likes of Papua New Guinea captain Rhyse Martin, Alex Mellor – a former Bulls team-mate of Bentley – and Bodene Thompson.

“And then there’s Morgan Gannon and Sam Walters as well,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when it turned out Morgan Gannon was 18 this week! I thought he was a lot older. It keeps us all on our toes and it’ll bring the best out of each other.

“It creates a good culture, too, and whoever plays best will be in. You’re only as good as your last game so you have to keep your performance high.”

Meanwhile, Huddersfield have retained the services of full-back Olly Ashall-Bott for 2022.

The former Widnes and London Broncos player made nine appearances for the Giants in 2021 as well as two on loan at Wakefield. He also had a brief spell under Huddersfield coach Ian Watson at Salford in 2020.

Watson said: “I know Olly really well after spending a couple of seasons with him now and his performances and attitude to being a Super League player have gotten better every week.

“He played a couple of games on loan for me in 2020 but I thought he showed some real promise and maturity here at Huddersfield last year so I’m over the moon that we have been able to keep him involved in our squad.

“I believe signing Ashall-Bott on a new deal will increase the competition for places at full-back and in the outside backs.

“The best teams have that in their squads and the likes of Ash Golding and Will Pryce are team players who have a fantastic attitude to competition so I’m looking forward to the battle for places in 2022.”