Leeds Rhinos Jury: Why fans’ Super League play-off expectations are low

“If last week’s game taught us anything, it’s that, whilst we probably will qualify for the play-offs, I doubt we will make it very far!”

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 6:00 am
Corey Johnson's return to the Leeds Rhinos' fold has given fans a lift but not enough to raise Super League play-off expectations. Picture: courtesy Phl Daly/Leeds Rhinos.

That’s the view of YEP juror Katie Burrows, and the sentiment is echoed throughout our Leeds Rhinos fans’ panel.

And, after last Friday’s heavy defeat to St Helens, it’s easy to see ‘where they’re coming from’.

CHRISTINE KIDD

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Last Friday's BetFred Super League defeat to St Helens has raised doubts among some fans over head coach Richard Agar and his backroom staff. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia.

It was never a good thing to be playing St Helens the week after they had been beaten so embarrassingly by Catalan Dragons.

Alex Walmsley played his best game of the season, rampaging through the Rhinos players and scattering them like skittles. With 10 first-team players either injured or suspended, this was never going to be an easy game but, by the time Leeds started playing, the game was already lost, although they did manage to stem the tide in the second half.

It was good to see Corey Johnson back in a Leeds Rhinos shirt and he will be challenging Brad Dwyer and Kruise Leeming for a place in the team next season.

At present Leeds need to win one more game to make the play- offs but, by kick-off on Friday, it might not matter. If Castleford lose on Thursday then Leeds and Hull KR will already be safely in the play-offs! If Castleford win then Leeds need to win to secure a place in the play-offs. Both Leeds and Hull KR have injuries so the teams on the field could be interesting. It would be good to get a win in the last home game of the season.

ADAM ANDERSON

I’m sure many of us don’t want to remember that performance against St Helens, arguably the worst in a quite a while.

We cannot forget the amount of injuries in the squad, but all the teams train together and learn together, which makes that performance not good enough. This week, we will be all watching Castleford Tigers against Warrington Wolves tonight hoping that Wire can win the game and guarantee our play-off place before playing on Friday night.

Castleford win and we go into Friday’s game hoping for a win to take us to Wigan in a week’s time. Lose and our season is over.

I feel that, whatever the ending is, we will still need to recruit at least two more players for the 2022 season to move farther up the table.

Injuries have been massive this season and maybe a change in the backroom set-up could be due to be made too.

MATT FOWLER

I am not sure what to make of the game last week against St Helens.

On the one hand, the team was down severely on numbers and we could roll out that excuse again.

On the other hand, even an under-19s team would have defended better and not missed as many tackles. It was an abject first half and didn’t really get a great deal better in the second half.

It is probably best just to archive it and move on.

The season is now potentially down to a one-game shoot-out with Hull KR - if Cas win against Warrington.

If Cas lose their last game tonight it could well be a damp squib as both teams look ahead to the play-offs. As I have stated many times before, our chances in the play-offs are slim given our injuries and our inconsistency.

I can’t see us pulling off three games of high-intensity rugby to win the Grand Final.

We may have one game in us and could potentially cause a stir but there needs to be a dramatic improvement all round.

We do like to win it from fifth though ...

IAN SHARP

The Grand Final is normally in October but, after our inept display last Friday night, we get to play it tomorrow night against a well-coached and full-of-confidence Hull Kingston Rovers.

I am not sure if Richard Agar believes the rubbish - top-four finish is possible - he says to the press in the build-up to games.

Maybe a top-four finish would be possible if we had not filled the squad with journeymen, and given contract extensions to players well past their sell-by date.

We lost last Friday’s game in that first set, making only 30 yards and, then, trying to run it on the last play was just suicide.

We handed the ball over in our own half and never got that field position back. Saints look so much more fluid in attack.

We can lambast our injuries but we look very poorly coached and I do worry that, unless we cut away the dead wood and replace with a new coach, we will become a mid-table has-been team.

We need to try and inspire the guys from the stands tomorrow night but, if we play like we did last week, the curtain will fall on a very poor season.

GAVIN MILLER

You know how last week I talked about winning Grand Finals, well yeah .. scrap that.

I think the season is about to run its course. I think Leeds are just too short of bodies and are too light in the middle and not enough coming from the backs to make let alone win a Grand Final next month. It’s been a strange season with a run of injuries like I have never seen at Leeds. Key men out for long periods at key moments.

When we did have a brief respite from injuries halfway through the season, we looked good but a ridiculous number of fixtures close together has meant that tired bodies have picked up injuries now at the business end of the season.

Leeds have done all they can to manage the crisis whilst still fielding teams and fulfilling fixtures, but I feel that maybe the sun is setting on their season.

I may be wrong, and they may surprise us, but I can’t look much farther than a St Helens v Catalans Grand Final, two teams with minimal injuries and a host of excellent players playing at the peak of their powers. It’s a stark contrast isn’t it?

What I am really looking forward to now is next season.

A well-rested team with new signings, hopefully fit, and a full season managed properly with no games called off and fixtures to be played with the proper amount of rest between games.

Basically, everything this season hasn’t been.

But who knows, a comprehensive victory against Hull KR on Friday night and I might be all “Leeds for a Grand Final” again.

That’s how fickle I am.

KATIE BURROWS

If last week’s game taught us anything, it’s that, whilst we probably will qualify for the play-offs, I doubt we will make it very far!

Despite a much better second-half performance from a young Rhinos side, Saints were far too good for us and I was actually surprised we conceded only 40 points. In that first half, we looked exhausted and, honestly, like we’d forgotten how to tackle.

Alex Walmsley absolutely trampled us and Saints showed, once again, why they deserve to be in the Grand Final in a few weeks’ time.

One big positive from us was seeing Corey Johnson back in a Rhinos shirt.

We played much better when he came on and I’m looking forward to, hopefully, seeing more of him next season.

On to this week, and we are back at Headingley for the final regular fixture of 2021.

It’s a must-win game if we want to finish in the top six.

However, with our likely opponents being Warrington Wolves and then Catalans Dragons, it might be better all round if our season ends on Friday!

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