Former Leeds Rhinos Challenge Cup winner Alex Sutcliffe reveals why he left Headingley for new career with Castleford Tigers
Former YEP Shooting Star Alex Sutcliffe says he moved from Leeds Rhinos to Castleford Tigers for a new challenge and to nail down a settled position.
Sutcliffe, voted Rhinos’ most impressive young player in 2020, penned a two-year contract at Castleford - with an option to double that - and began pre-season training there this week.
A Challenge Cup winner with Leeds last year, the former Oulton Raiders junior made his Rhinos debut in 2017 and scored two tries in 17 senior appearances, playing at centre and in the back-row.
“It is good, I am loving it,” Sutcliffe said of the first days at his new club.
“It is a fresh start, probably what I needed and I am really enjoying it.”
Sutcliffe stressed: “I needed a fresh start and probably to challenge myself a bit more, to try and nail down one position and get more game time and more games under my belt.
“[At Rhinos] I was in and out at centre and second-row and not needed some weeks so it was a bit of a tough one.”
The Wakefield-born 22-year-old is known for strong front-on defence and confirmed he believes his future is in the pack, rather than the three-quarters.
He has discussed the situation with Tigers coach Lee Radford, who has a similar opinion.
“We spoke before pre-season and when I signed,” Sutcliffe said.
“He said he sees me as a back-rower and, to be fair, I do see myself there and especially in the years to come.”
The former Rhinos man is one of eight new faces in Tigers’ squad for 2022.
He is joined at the Jungle by former Rhinos clubmate Callum McLelland, who is recovering from a serious knee injury suffered in August.
Players were in for testing at the end of last week and pre-season proper began on Monday.
“We’ve just been easing into it,” Sutcliffe said of the first week.
“It feels good, all the boys have welcomed me.
“They are all good lads and there seems to be quality throughout the team.
“There is strength in depth, some of the young lads are really good.
“They have really impressed in training.”
Sutcliffe is aware he isn’t guaranteed a place in Tigers’ 17.
He stressed: “I will be fighting for my position.
“You can’t beat a bit of healthy competition, you push each other and it is a team game at the end of the day.
“If you are trying your best and if you don’t make it, you are pushing yourself for your teammates.”
Tigers have revamped the backroom areas, used by players and coaches, during the off-season - with some of the painting done by their new coach.
“It feels like a proper training facility and all the lads who were here then are impressed with how it has changed from last season,” Sutcliffe added.
“It is a good environment to be in.”
Sutcliffe was a try scorer in Rhinos’ opening game of 2021, against Wakefield Trinity.
He featured in five matches at the start of the campaign, but a knee injury suffered away to Hull KR in April kept him sidelined until his farewell appearance for Leeds, as a substitute in a heavy defeat at St Helens in September.
He confirmed: “It’s all good now, my knee is all sorted.
“I am fully fit and looking for a big pre-season.”
Tigers will visit York City Knights for a pre-season game on Sunday, January 16 (3pm).