James Donaldson: Leeds Rhinos squad depth will prove crucial says forward

Leeds Rhinos are likely to be down on numbers for Friday’s game at Wigan Warriors, but forward James Donaldson is confident their squad is big and strong enough to cope.

By Peter Smith
Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 9:59 am

Rhinos lost Richie Myler, who was playing at stand-off, to a groin injury in last Saturday’s Betfred Super League round one defeat by Warrington Wolves, moments before second-rower James Bentley was sent-off.

Winger David Fusitu’a did not come out for the second half after taking a heavy tackle late and another second-rower, Rhyse Martin, played despite the recent death of his father, but will be on compassionate leave this week.

Even so, Rhinos were 10 points ahead in the final quarter and led with seven minutes remaining, until weight of numbers eventually told and a late converted try gave the visitors a 22-20 win.

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James Donaldson runs at Warrington's Danny Walker. Picture by Tony Johnson.

It was a huge effort, but Donaldson reckons players who step in this week will be up to the task.

“There is competition right across the board, for myself and for every player in that team,” Donaldson insisted.

“There are young boys pushing at our heels and also guys with experience, so it’s a good environment to be in.

“You know you have to bring your best game every week. If not, you’ll be sat on the sidelines the following week.

James Donaldson has paid tribute to Rhyse Martin, pictured, for his effort against Warringrton. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“That only breeds healthy competition, which in turn can only benefit the team.”

Donaldson’s regular role is as an impact player off the bench and Bentley’s dismissal gave him an even bigger job than normal.

Reflecting on his own performance, he said: “I was pleased with the energy I brought to the team.

“That’s a massive thing for me within this team. When we’re struggling for energy in the last 10 minutes before half-time, it’s about coming on and picking it up and trying to lift the boys when they’re tired.”

Richie Myler suffered a groin injury in Saturday's defeat. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Donaldson also paid tribute to the Headingley crowd for raising the team after the red card. He said: “It was bouncing and there is nothing better than running out at Headingley when it’s packed like that.

“I’m looking forward to running out again there in a couple of weeks, against Catalans.”

Saturday’s game was overshadowed by the loss of Martin’s father.

The Papua New Guinea Test forward produced an outstanding individual effort and Donaldson said he is being supported by his teammates during a traumatic time.

“Rhyse is a really good friend of mine,” Donaldson said.

“I went round to be with him when he found out. His wife and his little man are back in Australia visiting family, so it’s been a tough week for us.

“All the boys are trying to look after him as best we can, but obviously what he did on the field against Warrington was unbelievable.

“It just shows you what a tough player and resilient character he is.

“What he did after the tough week he’d had was amazing.”

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