Give Matt Frawley a chance, Nene Macdonald perspective, super Sam Lisone: Leeds Rhinos talking points

A well-earned win at Hull FC kept Leeds Rhinos in the play-off race, but has been overshadowed by news of players coming and possibly going.
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Here’s five talking points.

1: After a string of disappointing seasons and some underwhelming recruitment, Leeds Rhinos fans are becoming conditioned to look on the dark side.

That explains the negative reaction to the news Canberra Raiders pivot Matt Frawley is set to join Rhinos next year, but the sensible course of action is to hang fire and see how things pan out.

Hat-trick hero Sam Lisone storms clear to score in Rhinos' win at Hull. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Hat-trick hero Sam Lisone storms clear to score in Rhinos' win at Hull. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Hat-trick hero Sam Lisone storms clear to score in Rhinos' win at Hull. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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With Blake Austin having signed for Castleford Tigers and Aidan Sezer heading to Wests Tigers at the end of this season, Rhinos have been on the hunt for a six and seven.#

In Frawley, they are getting somebody with 52 NRL appearances under his belt and who has already had a taste of Super League.

He didn’t set the competition alight during his spell with Huddersfield Giants four years ago, but is a more mature person and player now.

The 28-year-old started at stand-off for Canberra Raiders last weekend and can play scrum-half, hooker and loose-forward, so has versatility as well as experience.

David Fusitu'a touches down for a spectacular try in Rhinos' victory at Hull FC. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.David Fusitu'a touches down for a spectacular try in Rhinos' victory at Hull FC. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
David Fusitu'a touches down for a spectacular try in Rhinos' victory at Hull FC. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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On the face of it, he is what they have been looking for. Any signing, especially one from 12,000 miles away, is a gamble, but he deserves a chance to show what he has got before the complaining begins.

2: Off-season recruit Sam Lisone wasn’t an instant hit at Rhinos. Early on there were questions over his fitness and whether he really wanted to be here, especially after his partner Georgia Hale returned to Australia to resume her career with Gold Coast Titans.

Rohan Smith has backed Lisone from the start and now everyone else is beginning to see what the coach had spotted in the Samoan powerhouse. His hat-trick in the win at Hull was about as good as it gets from a substitute front-rower.

A late arrival, he will be better with a full pre-season under his belt and, importantly, he’s also a good character. He may not be ‘the best on Earth’, but he is shaping up to be a real fans’ favourite.

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3: The Nene Macdonald situation is a tricky one for all concerned. The Papua New Guinea centre/winger has been good since joining Rhinos from Leigh in pre-season; he may not have hit top try scoring form yet, but he is a dangerous broken-field runner.

He is contracted longer than any other Leeds player, having signed a four-year deal only two months ago, but his future is in doubt after he failed to return as planned from paternity leave in Australia.

Rhinos did the humane thing by granting Macdonald permission to fly home for the birth and clearly his and his family’s welfare is a priority, but they also don’t want to get involved in another ‘will he return or won’t he come back’ saga.

As seen with Kruise Leeming and Austin this year, Leeds are prepared to part ways with players who don’t want to be at the club, which is the right policy.

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Should Macdonald return, that’s good news, but the uncertainty needs resolving as quickly as possible and if he doesn’t come back, it’ll be a disappointment rather than a disaster.

Rhyse Martin has done a really good job at centre this season and Macdonald’s exit would potentially open space for another overseas signing.

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Also, there are a number of promising youngsters in and around the squad - including Luis Roberts, Max Simpson, Jack Smith and Riley Lumb - who will get more of an opportunity.

4: There were some good individual performances in the win at Hull, alongside Lisone.

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James McDonnell has been an excellent addition from Wigan Warriors and Luke Hooley is looking the part after three successive games. It will be interesting to see what Rhinos have in mind for him next year after Aussie full-back Lachie Miller arrives.

David Fusitu’a returned from injury and scored a fine try, made important metres and tidied up really well near his own line.

He looked a class act and, assuming he signs a new deal, could be a very influential player in the next few seasons. Leeds just need to find a way of keeping him out of the treatment room and on the field.

5: A loss to either Wigan Warriors on Saturday or Catalans Dragons a week later would effectively end Leeds’ top-six hopes and mean they have nothing to play for in their final game, at home to 11th-placed Castleford Tigers.

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Assuming they are not more than two points behind Tigers going into round 27, bottom club Wakefield Trinity will obviously want Rhinos firing on all cylinders in that match.

But if Rhinos are still in contention, that might mean Hull KR, who are currently sixth, need to get something out of their final round fixture at Wakefield, so it seems, one way or another, Leeds will have a bearing on the relegation battle.