Leeds Rhinos kick-off 2022: It’s a family affair for James Bentley

DADS WILL do most things for their sons, but changing sporting allegiances is a step too far.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 11th February 2022, 12:01 pm

While Leeds-born James Bentley was making a name for himself as a tough and skilful second-rower with Bradford Bulls and then St Helens, his family remained die-hard Rhinos fans.

Now Bentley is preparing to make his debut for the club he supported as a boy and that will be a big moment as much for his relatives as the player himself.

“I am loving it,” Bentley – who first played rugby at the Oulton Raiders club – said ahead of this weekend’s Betfred Super League round-one clash with Warrington Wolves.

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Leeds Rhinos new boy James Bentley. Picture: Steve Riding.

“Everyone knows I am from Leeds so it is pretty special to be here for me and my family – especially my dad.

“He is buzzing and I can’t wait to get out there and get the season started.

“My dad has never had any of my shirts from where I’ve played in the past, but he has finally got one now and he’s made up.”

Bentley admits he always wanted to play for Rhinos at some stage, adding: “Growing up as a young kid and seeing the likes of [Kevin] Sinfield and [Danny] McGuire winning it all, you want to do the same.

James Bentley in action against Hull FC in Tom Briscoe's testimonial game. Picture: Matthew Merrick Photography.

“I got the opportunity to come here and it’s one I had to take.”

The 24-year-old Ireland international is one of four new signings in Rhinos’ squad, alongside winger David Fusitu’a and half-backs Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer.

He has come in from a winning environment at Saints, champions for the past three years and reckons Leeds are building something similar.

“We have got a really talented group,” he said.

“You see that with some of the tries we score and create.

“Hopefully, everyone will stay fit and we’ll continue to work hard and do the little things right as a team.

“If we do, we have definitely got the calibre of players to finish that off.”

Second-row is the most fiercely-contested position in Rhinos’ squad and Bentley insisted he isn’t taking his place in the team for granted.

“It’s good, it keeps us all on our toes,” he pledged.

“We all have to work that little bit harder because we’re all fighting for the same spot.

“There’s only two back-rowers who can play at the weekend and four or five of us fighting for that spot.

“It is only going to make us all better as players.”

Bentley is also impressed by the spirit at Rhinos.

He added: “It’s a great bunch of lads, everyone gets on.

“We all have a laugh together, then we rip in and train hard. I think that’s important – getting on with your team-mates off the field shows on it.

“The lads have really welcomed me and I feel at home.”

On a personal note, Bentley is looking to play week-in, week-out this year after a broken leg and then a back injury ruined his 2021 season and kept him out of Saints’ Challenge Cup and Grand Final triumphs.

“It was frustrating; I missed out on two major finals,” he recalled.

“It’s just one of those things. I have got to use that as fuel and fire in my belly to go on and win more.

“I had a taste of winning the Grand Final in 2020 and I want to go on and do it again.”

Bentley admitted: “You play a contact game; it’s going to happen.

“You know you’re going to get injured at points in your career but, hopefully, you don’t miss the big games.

“I missed two, but I’ve got to put it behind me, move on and work harder now to get into positions to win stuff.”

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