Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar spoiled for choice when it comes to captaincy candidates

AS they begin the search for a third new captain inside just six months, Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar maintains there is no rush to make an appointment – and is pleased with the growing number of leaders in his squad.

By Dave Craven
Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 6:15 am
Updated Sunday, 19th January 2020, 2:15 am
Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar, right, with one potential captain, Luke Gale. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia
Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar, right, with one potential captain, Luke Gale. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia

Trent Merrin’s release to rejoin St George-Illawarra last week means the club needs a new skipper for 2020.

The Australian loose-forward took over only in June when previous incumbent Kallum Watkins had made his own move to the NRL with Gold Coast Titans.

Clearly, Leeds have some obvious candidates to replace Merrin but Agar said no decision is likely to be imminent.

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Former Leeds Rhinos captain, Trent Merrin. PIC: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMedia

“It’s not on the agenda for us,” said the coach, with still just two months to go before their Super League opener against Hull FC.

“We felt last year we put a lot of time into our cultures and behaviours and I think over that time we’ve had a number of guys whose leadership skills are emerging.

“Obviously, at this stage we’ve got some new guys in the club as well. So, from the point where we started last year to where we are now, if I was to pick a four- or a five-man leadership group I would be really happy with it and the calibre of person and player in there.

“The captain will be someone who comes from within that group but we have a fair bit of work to do as a team before we get to that.

“I’m not talking about on-field work but some of the in-house off-field workshops we’ll be doing among ourselves.

“I think we’ll make a decision on that (captaincy) early in the new year.”

England scrum-half Luke Gale has joined from Castleford Tigers whom he captained on numerous occasions in Michael Shenton’s absence and, therefore, he is a likely option having also had experience of the job in his time at Bradford Bulls.

However, there are plenty of other potential leaders such as Rhyse Martin who recently led Papua New Guinea to their shock triumph over Great Britain.

“We have some senior guys coming in but the reality is we probably have four or five guys within the squad who could all really capably fill the role,” continued Agar.

“They have the required experience, temperament and core values needed for it.

“We might talk to the players themselves, too, and it’s good to have the pre-season to have a good look but we’ve probably got two or three names that probably stand out.”

Stevie Ward, of course, also has previous experience as he was installed by Brian McDermott as stand-in captain when Watkins was ruled out for the season in May 2018.

However, when McDermott was sacked two months later, Kevin Sinfield, as incoming director of rugby, put in place a leadership group instead involving Ward, Adam Cuthbertson, Brad Singleton and Carl Ablett.

Singleton joined Toronto Wolfpack last week and Ablett retired at the end of this season but Australian prop Cuthbertson – who turns 35 in January – remains from that list.

Leeds Rhinos’ first friendly is against Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day so that will offer an early indication of the coach’s thoughts but there is ample time to make a considered decision ahead of the opener on February 2.