French recruit Mickael Goudemand reveals surprise Leeds Rhinos ambition, makes 'good season' prediction
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“I wanted to have a new challenge and I wanted to come to England, but only to Leeds. When my agent said we had an offer from Leeds, I said ‘let’s go, I’m in’.”
Goudemand was Leeds’ first signing for 2024, his two-year deal being announced in June. Explaining the spiritual connection to his new club, Goudemand said: “My first rugby league jersey was a Leeds Rhinos jersey.
“My father travelled when I was very young and he watched some games, he watched Leeds and it is a fantastic club. He bought the jersey for me and I wore it for maybe 10 years. I always wanted to play for this club.”
Goudemand, who has been capped 12 times by France, is part of a major rebuild by Rhinos, who haven’t finished in the top-four of Super League since 2017 when they were runners-up to Castleford Tigers before going on to win the title for the eighth time.
Coach Rohan Smith identified the Frenchman’s versatility, experience and toughness as attributes which will add to Rhinos’ squad and has indicated Goudemand could feature in the middle of the field or on an edge.
Often used by Catalans as an impact player off the bench, Goudemand’s arrival creates extra competition for places in Rhinos’ pack and he feels he has joined a club capable of winning silverware, despite last season’s lowly eighth-placed finish and a 61-0 defeat by the Dragons in September.
Goudemand did not play that afternoon, but was among Catalans’ substitutes at AMT Headingley in March when Rhinos overturned a 22-8 half-time deficit to win 32-22. He insisted: “I think it is a good squad with some very high-quality players. Last year Leeds could beat any team; they didn’t finish well, but I am sure we will have a good season.”
The 27-year-old began his career with Avignon in the French domestic competition and had a spell at Dewsbury Rams in 2017 before joining Catalans Dragons the following year. He was a Challenge Cup winner, against Warrington Wolves, in his first season with Catalans and also featured in their Grand Final loss to St Helens two years ago.
He arrived in Leeds last weekend and completed his first on-field training session on Tuesday. “Since I signed a contract with this club, I can not wait to come and now I am here, I am very happy,” Goudamand added.
Though this isn’t his first time living in England, having some familiar faces at the club is helping him settle in. He has played alongside Rhinos forward Justin Sangare for France and head of performance Richard Hunwicks joined Leeds two years ago from a similar role with Catalans.
Next season will be the first time Rhinos have had two French players in their squad and Goudemand reflected: “Rich and Justin Sangare have helped me a lot and I feel already like I have been here a few weeks. It is very nice to have them here, it makes it easier. I also talked a lot with the coach Rohan and he gave me a lot of confidence to come here.”
Goudemand’s eight-game stint at Dewsbury, under then team boss Neil Kelly means he is familiar with West Yorkshire. He and his girlfriend are staying in a hotel until paperwork is cleared allowing him to rent a property and he recalled: “I lived three or four months in Dewsbury, so I knew the city of Leeds. I knew it was a nice city, a good city to live in, so that again made it easier for me to come and play for this club.”