Leeds Rhinos: Centre Alex Sutcliffe pressing for the first team at Leeds Rhinos says coach Richard Agar
YOUNG PROSPECT Alex Sutcliffe is the top English centre in the Betfred Championship and will be pushing for a regular place in Leeds Rhinos’ team next year, Richard Agar says.
The Rhinos coach has been won over by Sutcliffe’s form for Championship Grand Finalists Featherstone Rovers and reckons the dual-registration partnership is working well for both clubs.
Sutcliffe, 20, made only one substitute appearance for Rhinos this year, but has starred in Rovers’ charge from fifth place in the table to the million pound game away to Toronto Wolfpack on Saturday, along with Rhinos full-back Ashton Golding, stand-off Callum McLelland and prop Wellington Albert.
“Alex has probably been the find of the season,” Agar said.
“When I first came to the club I wasn’t really sure how seriously Alex was taking his footy or whether he just didn’t see a strong enough pathway for him to develop.
“I can understand that in today’s game, given the circumstances of no reserve grade, but his performance has grown so much playing first grade rugby every week to the point where I think he is the stand-out English centre in the Championship.
“He played a game off the bench for us, did a great job and he’s a guy I think will really challenge for a spot in first grade with Leeds next year.”
Golding played twice for Rhinos in 2019, McLelland three times and Albert five. Agar said: “Ash has probably been the unluckiest player on our roster this year.
“Jack [Walker’s] form has obviously kept him out and he has been really unlucky he didn’t have more game time.
“Callum is getting extended game time at a standard far higher than what academy rugby can offer him and the experience can only be good for him. He has had some terrific performances in the run-in for Featherstone and it has been good for Wellington to play week-in, week-out.”
Luke Briscoe was also a regular with Rovers before his brother Tom’s knee injury opened a door at Leeds.
“He played really well for Fev and was game-ready when he came back to us,” Agar added. “Overall it has been a productive arrangement for us and Featherstone and I am really proud of the way our guys have represented themselves.”
Leeds will need to find new partners if Rovers – whose coach Ryan Carr is also Agar’s assistant – are promoted. Agar admitted: “Dual-reg is not everybody’s cup of tea.
“I think for the parent club, the Championship club and the players sometimes it hasn’t always been great, but I think we’ve got it going as good as anybody.
“We’ve had really close links with Ryan during the year and subsequently when he has helped us on the staff and I am really proud of what our players have done.
“Both Ryan and [Rovers chairman] Mark Campbell have talked about not only how well they’ve played, but what good people they’ve been
“I think our players have gone over and above the spirit of the agreement.
“When we’ve had some time off, Callum, Ash and Sutty have made sure they’ve attended Fev’s training and reviews on days when really they wouldn’t have been obliged to do that.
“That shows how committed they’ve been to Featherstone and how serious and professional they are as individuals.”