Harry Newman ready for Leeds Rhinos comeback against Super League leaders Catalans Dragons says coach Richard Agar
Long-term casualty Harry Newman is expected to make his comeback for Leeds Rhinos at Catalans Dragons on Friday, coach Richard Agar has confirmed.
Newman has not played since suffering a double break to a leg in a win over Hull KR at Warrington on September 24 last year.
He was given the all-clear by a specialist a week ago and has been named in Rhinos’ initial squad for this evening’s game in Perpignan.
“I think he will be in our 17,” Agar said of the 21-year-old, who is a member of the England elite performance squad.
“It’s just whether we start him or play him from the bench.
“That will depend on a couple of things, but it will be good to get him back after a big, traumatic injury.”
Agar heaped praise on Newman for the way he has handled his layoff, describing his commitment as “world class”.
The coach said: “He has had a couple of setbacks towards the end and maybe not got back to full training as quick as he would have liked.
“He has had to trust the healing process a bit more and be a bit patient with it, which has caused him some frustrations, but he is good to go.”
Newman will be thrown in at the deep end, away to the Betfred Super League leaders, but Agar insisted: “He looks a picture physically.
“Of course, we would expect him to be lacking top-line match fitness.
“Contact-wise, he has done plenty of training, but you never quite get used to game conditions until you play a match or two and get back into it.
“But he is super-fit and ready to go.”
Another 21-year-old, Callum McLelland, could also make his first appearance of the season, after ankle surgery last autumn and a groin injury in training.
Fellow half-backs Jack Walker, Rob Lui and Luke Gale have all had lengthy spells on the sidelines and Agar said: “It’s fair to say Callum would have had plenty of opportunity to stamp his mark on our team this year.
“It has left him frustrated, he has got back from one injury and picked up another and had some little grumbles along the way.
“We have only seen him on the [training] field this week.
“He is close to playing [today], such is where we’re at with our lineup at the moment and he wants to make sure he’s in the best shape possible to take that chance.
“That’s probably some feedback we’ve given him in the past - when he has had opportunities he has maybe not been in the best shape he can be to make the most of them and be as effective as a half needs to be.”
McLelland is out of contract at the end of this year and needs to prove to Leeds - or other clubs - he is worth a deal for next season.
“He has certainly got the rugby league IQ and intelligence,” Agar said.
“As a young half it is not always that easy, coming into a team where you’re not familiar with combinations, which has happened to him in the past.
“He came in last year at a time when we did have some disruption in our lineup so he was put in some difficult circumstances.
“There is a dearth of young half-backs in the game and it will be good for Callum this year to be in good shape to take any opportunities and hopefully give us some tough decisions moving forward about where he stands in regards to our starting lineup.
“That would be great for us.”
Lui, who will leave Rhinos at the end of the season, made his comeback from a quad injury in the recent games against Leigh Centurions and Warrington Wolves, but tore a hamstring in the second of those and is back on the casualty list.
“The back to back games was always an element of risk, but one we had to take given our circumstances at the time,” Agar said.
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