Leeds Rhinos could move for Parramatta Eels ace Jai Field following Super League quota change

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New regulations mean Leeds Rhinos are no longer having to rely on Rhyse Martin receiving a Papua New Guinea passport to bring in an Aussie or Kiwi recruit.

Previously, Betfred Super League clubs were allowed up to five full quota players - from nations including Australia and New Zealand - plus two ‘Kolpak’ imports, with a Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands or PNG passport.

Rhinos have the maximum number of full quota players - Martin, Adam Cuthbertson, Matt Prior, Rob Lui and Ava Seumanufagai - in their 2020 squad, plus Tongan Konrad Hurrell.

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Australian-born Martin, who captained the country of his father’s birth during the 2019 end-of-season internationals, has been waiting since last autumn for PNG documentation. That would have taken him off full quota, made him a ‘Kolpak’ player and given Rhinos the option of bringing in an Australian or New Zealander.

Jai Field, left, in action for St George-Illawarra Dragons. Picture by Ian Hitchcock/Getty ImagesJai Field, left, in action for St George-Illawarra Dragons. Picture by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Jai Field, left, in action for St George-Illawarra Dragons. Picture by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

However, the Rugby Football League (RFL) has now agreed to simplify the rules regarding nationality and the limit on players who are ‘not federation trained’ (NFT). In future, the only restriction on Super League clubs is a limit of seven NFT players, from any country.

Cuthbertson, 35, is out of contract at the end of this season so Leeds would have two foreign places available for 2021 if he rejected or was not offered a new deal.

Rhinos have been looking for a’ Kolpak’ forward from the NRL, but could now step up efforts to bring in pacy utility-back Jai Field, who joined Parramatta Eels this season on a one-year contract. Rhinos coach Richard Agar has admitted an interest in the 22-year-old Australian who can play at full-back or in the halves. Field made his Parramatta debut at scrum-half against North Queensland Cowboys last weekend, scoring a try in Eels’ 42-4 victory.

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He is a possible replacement for Toronto Wolfpack-bound Richie Myler, but Rhinos’ recruitment and retention for next season is on hold until a playing budget is agreed.

Rhyse Martin. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.Rhyse Martin. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Rhyse Martin. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Rhinos expect to lose £4m over the next 18 months because of coronavirus and the amount available to spend on the team will depend on factors including how many home games are played in front of a crowd this year and the amount which has to be handed over in rebates to season ticket holders.

Meanwhile, Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has confirmed Rhinos will begin training next week ahead of their return to action against Huddersfield Giants on Sunday, August 2.

“It’s staggered because of the protocols and testing and everything that goes with it,” he said. “It’s not a simple, straight-forward process, like pre-season starts on a certain day and every player is there.

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“Everybody has effectively to be licensed to go into Kirkstall [Rhinos’ training base] and nobody can go in there who’s not authorised.

Matt Prior evades Toronto's Sonny Bill Williams. Picture by Jonathan GawthorpeMatt Prior evades Toronto's Sonny Bill Williams. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe
Matt Prior evades Toronto's Sonny Bill Williams. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe

“It is a very complex process, but effectively the return to training will begin next week.”

Hetherington insisted he is not worried by reports players at certain clubs may refuse to train in a dispute over pay cuts.

“I don’t think that’s an issue for anybody to be concerned about,” he said. “As I have said several times, rugby league players have not got the credit they deserve for how they have handled and managed very significant cuts, right back to April.

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“That is an on-going situation and an issue that will continue to rumble - how do we, as clubs, survive this year and next year as well?”

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