Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith outlines centre/wing policy and predicts big things from prop Sam Lisone

Coach Rohan Smith says his policy is to pick Leeds Rhinos’ best available players, then decide what positions they’ll play.
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Harry Newman (hamstring) and Nene Macdonald (quad muscle) are both nearing the end of a long-term injury layoff, but Rhinos were without any experienced, specialist centres in their squad for last week’s opening Betfred Super League defeat at Warrington Wolves.

Leeds’ 2022 Grand Final centres Liam Sutcliffe, who will be back at Headingley on Friday with Hull FC and Zak Hardaker have both moved on, so Ash Handley and David Fusitu’a - better known as wingers - took those roles, though the latter switched with debutant Luis Roberts during the game.

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Smith felt his centres “looked ready to play that position”, but stressed the situation will change as the season goes on.

Leeds’ Ash Handley is tackled by Greg Minikin during Rhinos' defeat at Warrington. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Leeds’ Ash Handley is tackled by Greg Minikin during Rhinos' defeat at Warrington. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Leeds’ Ash Handley is tackled by Greg Minikin during Rhinos' defeat at Warrington. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

“We will keep assessing it,” Smith pledged. “It will evolve and people will put their flag in the ground at some point, but at the moment it is picking our best players and working out positions after that.”

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The coach is also confident front-row signing Sam Lisone will show his true colours as he gets more game time under his belt.

The former Gold Coast Titans forward made his debut last week and Smith insisted: “He will be better for the hit out. I thought his second shift was pretty good, he got a taste for how the English game is and he did okay.”

David Fusitu'a could play wing or centre this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.David Fusitu'a could play wing or centre this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
David Fusitu'a could play wing or centre this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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Smith feels Lisone is still building his fitness. He added: “It is a big thing to have a few months in limbo when the season has ended and you’re waiting for visas and work permits.

“You get here in December and the weather’s different and it’s a much shorter pre-season than what players are used to in the NRL.

“There’s lot of things that were different for Sam this pre-season, he was waiting for his missus to come over and getting their house sorted out and all that kind of thing.

“I was under no illusions it would take some time for him to get to his best. He got started [last week] and he will be better for it.”