Leeds Rhinos 2019: Coach Dave Furner looking to reconnect missing links
NEW BEGINNINGS is the theme of Betfred Super League this year and that applies to Leeds Rhinos as much as any club.
Dave Furner, who will make his competitive debut in charge of the team at Warrington Wolves on Saturday, is Leeds’ first new head coach since 2011 when Brian McDermott stepped into the hot seat.
Rhinos have an expanded 36-man squad this season, five more than a year ago and that includes new signings Konrad Hurrell, Tui Lolohea, Trent Merrin, Callum McLelland and James Donaldson.
Eight of the 31 full-time players who began last year on Leeds’ books are no longer at the club.
“I think collectively as a squad and a team we have got to build the team back to where it needs to be,” Furner said of his objectives for his time at Leeds, the club he ended his playing career with 15 years ago.
“It has always been used to success and we need to work hard together to bring it back to the club.”
Rhinos finished ninth in the 2018 regular season table, a massive 24 points behind league leaders St Helens.
The gap to sixth-placed Huddersfield Giants was a more manageable five points, but even so Leeds have a lot of ground to close to get into the play-offs this term.
“I want to win everything, but I think we have to be patient,” admitted Furner.
“The way I look at it, I am establishing a relationship with the players and we are establishing the way we want to play, establishing, too, the right connections.
“In the spine, the nine, six, seven and one, we have got Tui and Richie [Myler] and it is their first year playing together so I am trying to build those connections as quickly as possible.
“Obviously our two nines are competing for that spot and we’ve got two young full-backs, Jack Walker and Ashton Golding, who are relatively new to that role.
“There’s some work to do, but what I am looking at is trying to get consistency with the squad, in training and then on the field of play.”
Super League’s New Beginnings include laws designed to speed up the game and keep the ball in play for longer.
Will that suit Rhinos? Furner said: “I hope so!
“I need to look at the players I think can play the way I want to play, that’s the biggest thing.”
Rhinos could not have faced a tougher start. After Warrington, who reached both major finals last year, they travel to champions Wigan Warriors.
They then visit Salford Red Devils, where they were crushed 38-22 last July and complete the opening month away to St Helens.
Furner admits Rhinos – beaten 26-24 by Castleford Tigers in their only full-scale trial game – will find out quickly where they are.
“It was a good test against Castleford,” added the coach.
“I got what I wanted to get out of that game. I got a good look at players and I think it is just about preparing ourselves to play Warrington and preparing the best way.”