Departing centre Konrad Hurrell predicting a bright future for Leeds Rhinos

THE END of Leeds Rhinos’ season also brought centre Konrad Hurrell’s time at the club to a close.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 6:00 am

Hurrell bowed out after Leeds’ 36-8 defeat at St Helens in last Friday’s Betfred Super League semi-final.

It was an emotional night for the Tongan international and team-mate Rob Lui who is also leaving Rhinos – and not the way he wanted to finish, but Hurrell insisted he is “proud” to have been part of what he described as a “special” club.

Despite an injury-ravaged eight months, Rhinos finished fifth on the league table, equalling last year’s placing.

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Fond farewell: Rhinos centre Konrad Hurrell says goodbye to the fans after the defeat at St Helens. Picture: Steve Riding.

They went one better than 2020 in the play-offs, reaching the semi-final stage after their 8-0 win at Wigan Warriors in the opening elimination tie.

But Saints proved too strong on the night, running in six tries to Rhinos’ two and – having trailed 14-0 midway through the first half – Leeds never looked like reaching an 11th Grand Final.

Hurrell made his farewell appearance as a second-half substitute and reflected: “We came up short, but I am proud of the boys.”

He said: “We’ve had a tough year, with injuries, suspensions and Covid, but the boys dug deep.

On his way: Leeds' King Vuniyayawa is expected to join Salford. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“No one moaned about who’s playing, who’s not playing and everyone dug in.

“We came this far and came up short so I am a bit disappointed, but proud of the boys and you can’t ask for more.”

The strong-running Hurrell joined Rhinos as a marquee signing from NRL club Gold Coast Titans ahead of the 2019 season.

He went on to play 55 times for the club, scoring 23 tries.

Big future: Rhinos centre Harry Newman. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com

The 30-year-old is now expected to join Saints, where he will play under his Test coach Kristian Woolf, but believes Rhinos’ future is bright.

Having battled against relegation in his debut season, he was a Challenge Cup winner last year and believes the young players now beginning to make their mark on Rhinos’ senior side – the likes of Harry Newman, Mikolaj Oledzki, Tom Holroyd, Jack Broadbent, Morgan Gannon and Jarrod O’Connor – will go on to be Super League stars.

“It is a good club,” Hurrell – who crossed twice in 17 appearances this term – added.

“With the signings they have made and all the young players, it is going to be crazy next year.”

Rising star: Leeds three-quarter Jack Broadbent. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com

Though they ended this season empty-handed, Rhinos are in better shape now than when Hurrell signed for them three years ago.

It has been a rebuilding phase, following the break up of the golden generation, but he will leave Emerald Headingley with a Wembley winner’s medal and rates the Challenge Cup success against Salford Red Devils 12 months ago as a career highlight.

“It was my first trophy,” he said. “That makes it special.

“This is a special club, it has always been a special club and I am blessed I have got to be a part of this group and my name is part of Leeds Rhinos’ history, so I am happy with that.”

Despite being unable to agree a new deal, Hurrell has made no secret of his affection for Rhinos. He was the last Leeds player to leave the pitch at TW Stadium – clad only in his underwear after giving his kit away to fans.

He insisted he will miss both players and supporters.

He said: “The relationship I’ve got with these boys, it is hard to leave,” he conceded.

“The friendship and everything will still be there, that has not finished.

“The fans are one of the things I will miss the most, but I guess I have to move on.

“It [his three years at Leeds] has gone quick and I think that shows how much I have been enjoying it.

“I wish it hadn’t come to an end, but you have to look after number one.”