Five things we’ve learned from Leeds Rhinos’ three pre-season victories
LEEDS RHINOS have won their three pre-season games so far. Here are five things we have learned from the victories over Wakefield Trinity, Bradford Bulls and Wigan Warriors.
1: Luke Gale and Stevie Ward are pivotal for Rhinos and, if they can stay fit, Leeds are capable of having a good year. Gale missed the whole of last season – when he was a Castleford Tigers player – owing to an Achilles injury, but in two pre-season matches has looked the part. The former Man of Steel, who wasn’t risked against Bradford because of a quad strain, gives Leeds a much-needed kicking game and his distribution is excellent. Ward has also had well-documented injury woes, but has got through some big minutes and looked strong in both attack and defence. If he can play most weeks he will fill the gap left by Trent Merrin’s departure comfortably.
2: It could be a big season for England Knights duo Mikolaj Oledzki and Cameron Smith. The changing of the guard has opened an opportunity in the front-row for Oledzki and he has impressed in all three games so far. Smith missed the Wigan match because of illness, but has also made a strong case for a regular place in the 17.
3: Richie Myler still has a part to play. Barring injuries, it won’t be in the halves, but he has looked very assured at hooker, coming on as a substitute and scoring in all three trial games. He has also been strong defensively and his attitude, after the blow of losing his number-seven jersey, has been first class.
4: Rhinos are right to have high hopes for teenage prop Thomas Holroyd. The Siddal product made three appearances early last term, but was then sidelined by a series of different injuries. He certainly brings size and showed no fear against a good Wigan team. At 18 he has to be handled with care but, if he fulfils his potential, Leeds could have a very good player for a number of years to come.
5: It’s hard to tell until the real business starts and the going gets tough, but Rhinos look much more like a unit than 12 months ago. Team spirit off the field seems very good and the decision to kick a penalty goal at 10-10 against Wigan might have been jeered by the home fans, but it proved they are hungry to win.