Leeds Rhinos are talking to potential targets but where do they need to strengthen?
Leeds Rhinos are talking to potential recruits to strengthen their side for next season, coach Richard Agar has confirmed.
Six members of this year’s squad - Konrad Hurrell, Rob Lui, King Vuniyayawa, Alex Sutcliffe, Callum McLelland and Luke Briscoe - won’t be at the club in 2022 and so far only three additions have been announced.
Half-backs Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin - both former Man of Steel nominees - will join Rhinos when pre-season begins next month, along with Ireland international second-rower James Bentley.
Some players are likely to be promoted from the academy, but Leeds will also look to bring in at least one recruit from another club - and potentially two if the right players can be found at an affordable cost.
The loss of half-backs Lui and McLelland has already been covered by Sezer and Austin, from Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves, but Leeds are keen to add another big man in the middle of the field following Vuniyayawa’s departure.
Because of injuries, illness and suspensions, Rhinos lacked size at times during the season which has just finished, making that a priority.
In 22-year-old Mikolaj Oledzki, Rhinos have one of the most highly-rated young forwards in the European game.
Tom Holroyd, 20, is following in his footsteps and has been called into the England Knights squad to take on Jamaica at Castleford on Friday.
Imports Zane Tetevano and Matt Prior are both under contract beyond next season, but another powerful forward would give Agar some valuable options.
With Konrad Hurrell and Luke Briscoe - who featured in 25 of Rhinos’ 27 competitive games this season - having both left the club, Agar may also target an outside-back.
Tom Briscoe and Ash Handley are set to continue as Leeds’ first-choice wingers, but the squad’s only other specialist in that role is rookie Liam Tindall, who finished the season on loan at Betfred League One side Doncaster.
The number four shirt is currently vacant and while Liam Sutcliffe will be keen to establish himself at centre, an addition who can play there or one position further out would provide essential additional cover.
At the moment, Jack Broadbent - another new name in the second-string Knights squad - is likely to be third-choice for both wing and centre.
But if Leeds bring in a winger, Tom Briscoe could switch into the centres when necessary - as he did at times this year. Otherwise Agar could have to call on teenagers Corey Hall or Levi Edwards, or move somebody from the pack.
Sezer and Austin will both be on Rhinos’ overseas quota for 2022, but with Hurrell, Lui and Vuniyayawa all having moved on, Leeds have space for another foreign recruit.
Agar confirmed: “We are looking, but only if it can add to our squad, talent-wise and person-wise.
“We have got a bit [of room under the salary cap] to play with and a quota spot.
“We are looking and we are talking.”
In other positions, Rhinos appear well covered. A foot injury kept Jack Walker off the field throughout this year, but he is expected to be in full training when pre-season begins and vying with Richie Myler and Broadbent for the full-back spot.
Rhinos have three quality hookers in Kruise Leeming, Brad Dwyer and Corey Johnson and Bentley will add to multiple options in the second-row/loose-forward.
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