Leeds Rhinos: Ava Seumanufagai warming to winter pre-season schedule

PRE-SEASON HAS gone from one extreme to the other for Leeds Rhinos’ New Zealand-born prop Ava Seumanufagai.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 5:30 am
Matty Fozard of London challenges Ava Seumanufagai.
Matty Fozard of London challenges Ava Seumanufagai.

A year ago he was training with Cronulla Sharks in the fierce heat of an Australia summer.

Twelve months on, the conditions could not be more different as he gets to grips with his first pre-season in England.

After a fortnight of torrential rain it has been drier this week, but Seumanufagai admitted he is still coming to terms with the cold at Rhinos’ training base in Kirkstall.

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Leeds Rhinos' Ava Seumanufagai.

“It’s freezing,” Seumanufagai said of the start of preparations for 2020.

“I have to rug up a bit more than the other boys, because I am not used to it.

“It is very cold, but I am either doing pre-season in 40 degrees over in Australia or minus two here.

“I guess it is a bit better doing it in the cold, but I am just getting used to it.”

Seumanufagi signed for Rhinos in April and made his debut as a substitute during a 28-16 loss at Salford Red Devils the following month.

That was coach Dave Furner’s final game in charge before he was sacked and replaced by Richard Agar.

It was a testing introduction to Betfred Super League, but the 28-year-old front-rower went on to make 15 appearances last season and his tough performances up the middle helped Rhinos win their battle against relegation.

After struggling at the wrong end of the table in three of the last four years, Rhinos need to turn things around next term and Seumanufagai confirmed there has been no holding back in training, by players or staff.

“It has been a really tough pre-season, I haven’t had one like this for a few years,” said Seumanufagai, who began his career in the lower grades at Parramatta Eels and also played in the NRL for West Tigers.

“We are dusting off the cobwebs, I guess.

“My body is actually quite sore at the moment, there’s a lot of running and a lot of four-a-day sessions.

“I would say it is pretty similar to back in Australia.

“I’d say Blackie [conditioner Chris Black] has stepped it up a bit this year so we are getting a few more miles in.”

But he insisted: “A few more weeks and I’ll be getting used to it more.

“It’s what we needed, we will be coming in quite fit next year.

“I know Blackie has done his homework so we’ll be raring to go as soon as we start.”

The hard graft put in now will stand Rhinos in good stead when they kick off their league campaign at home to Hull on February 2, Seumanafagai reckons.

He said: “I think we will have a really good season next year.

“We came home okay last year.

“I know we didn’t start off very well, but towards the end I think we played really well.

“That was good for us and a few of the boys have had more time to get used to playing with each other. Hopefully they way we finished last year is a sign of things to come in 2020.”