Leeds Rhinos ace's plea - 'let's finish what we've started, but with fewer games'

Super League must be completed this year, but with a reduced fixture list, Leeds Rhinos’ Adam Cuthbertson says.

Saturday, 28th March 2020, 6:00 am
Adam Cuthbertson scored against Toronto in Rhinos' final game before the shutdown. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Rugby league at all levels was suspended last week, just seven rounds into the Betfred Super League campaign.

The initial shutdown was until Friday, April 3, but that has now been extended indefinitely.

Australia’s top competition, the NRL, tried to battle on with games being played behind closed doors before that was also put on hold.

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The Rugby Football League [RFL], Super League and clubs have been working on contingency plans, including extending the season into winter - and Cuthbertson believes it is important the campaign is played to a conclusion.

“I would definitely like to see the season finished and it’ll be interesting to see how they are going to do that going forward,” said the 35-year-old Aussie, who joined Rhinos in 2015 and is a two-time Grand Final winner.

“I think it’s important for the supporters, the people that turn up week-in and week-out, to finish the season.”

Rhinos - who are third in the table and on a run of four successive wins - have two games in hand on some of their rivals and already have one midweek fixture penciled in.

Catalans are even further behind, with three games to rearrange and extending the shutdown would make it almost impossible for a full 29-round season to be completed.

Cuthbertson has called in the past for the nine-month Super League season to be reduced in length, possibly by scrapping the six additional ‘loop fixtures’ when teams meet for a third time.

He said: “I have talked about shortening the length of the season and this might be a really good way of seeing how that would work and whether it potentially might be something for the future.

“A shorter, punchier season might make for a more exciting one and create more interest - and have better performances from round one to whenever we finish.”

Players have been given no clear indication of when full training, or matches, might resume. With the coronavirus outbreak yet to peak in this country, it seems unlikely any more rugby will be played before June.

Gatherings of more than two people have now been banned and the authorities are instructing people to remain at home and avoid all but essential travel, so playing behind closed doors does not appear to be an option at this stage.

Rhinos’ plans to open their gym at Kirkstall to players on a voluntary basis lasted just one day, before the government ordered a national lockdown.

“I think it’ll be a decision based on what the government ends up deciding,” Cuthbertson said of rugby league’s next move.

“I think it really comes down to abiding by the rules, because it is important, with how the virus is spreading so quickly.

“Players are in the public limelight so I think it is important players and the club abide by those rules to set a good example.

“I think it will come down to what rules are in force and how we can abide by those in a safe environment.”

So far, players - who are facing likely wage cuts if the shutdown continues - have been working on their own to maintain fitness.

Cuthbertson said: “I have been trying to get out a bit in terms of going out on road runs.

“I went to Roundhay Park the other day and I’ve been doing little different things like that, to keep it fresh.

“Obviously it’s important to do social distancing, but it’s also important for our sanity to keep every day a bit fresh and to keep our brains stimulated.

“I have got a local park close to me and I’ve been going out as often as I can to do a run or whatnot.”