Leeds Rhinos' Liam Sutcliffe confirms he wants to play centre this year
Versatile Leeds Rhinos stalwart Liam Sutcliffe hopes his pre-season appearance as a half-back was a one-off.
Sutcliffe - now the club's longest-serving player - filled in at stand-off, scoring a try, when Rhinos lost 22-16 at Huddersfield Giants last weekend.
With all four first-choice halves unavailable, Sutcliffe partnered Richie Myler in the pivotal roles, but stressed he wants to focus on the centres this year after impressing in that position during the second half of 2020.
It was Rhinos’ only warm-up game before their Betfred Super League opener against Wakefield Trinity a week tomorrow and Sutcliffe said: “I was playing at half, which I probably won’t be playing - or hopefully won’t be playing because I do want to play centre.
“It was more of a chance to get a game under my belt and see how the lungs were in the first game.”
Sutcliffe revealed he did some training in the halves after Rob Lui suffered a quad injury which will force him to miss the opening rounds of the season, but stressed: “Other than that, the majority of it has been in the centre.”
Once they are passed fit, Sutcliffe will be competing with Harry Newman and Konrad Hurrell for a spot in the centres, Alex Sutcliffe can play there and youngsters Jack Broadbent and Corey Hall - who started at three and four last week - are also in the reckoning.
Broadbent, who switched to full-back following an injury to Ash Handley, had an outstanding game and Sutcliffe has no doubt the 20-year-old is Super League class.
“He has been really good,” Sutcliffe said. “He has had a great pre-season, he has worked really hard which has been good to see.
“It is only going to be good for competition, it’ll put everyone on their toes and make everyone work that bit harder, which is good for the team.”
Handley’s knee injury was a major setback but Rhinos expect to have several players who missed the pre-season game - including Luke Gale, Kyle Eastmond, Matt Prior and Alex Mellor, who was suspended last week - available for selection against Wakefield.
With so many first-choice players available, Sutcliffe said the Giants game was “ a chance for the young lads to put their hand up and let Rich know they are ready to go”.
He said: “It will have been a valuable hit-out.
“It was good to get a game in, pre-season has been going a long time now and we were just happy to get 80 minutes under our belt.
“It was one of those where you just wanted to get out there, see where you’re at and see how you’ve done in pre-season.
“There’s still plenty to work so we’ll look at that game, see what we need to work on and try and put that right.”
Rhinos’ pre-season began on January 4 and has been far from straight-forward.
Training was halted for more than a week after a coronavirus outbreak, Gale, Lui, Jack Walker and Callum McLelland picked up injuries, several other players have been in rehab’ following surgery and imports King Vuniyayawa, Zane Tetevano and Matt Prior were late arrivals.
Even so, Rhinos have had more time than usual to prepare for the new campaign and Sutcliife reckons they are in good shape.
“Obviously the injuries aren’t ideal, they have disrupted preparations a little bit,” he admitted.
“But everyone has just got on with it, not complained and kind of dug in.
“The injured boys have been training the house down to get back fit, which is good to see and everyone has ripped in.
“Hopefully we have put ourselves in a good position to start the season well.
“Everyone’s really enjoying coming to training and working and we’re enjoying being around each other’s company as well, which is really good.
“We put the work in, but everyone’s enjoying it at the same time, which is really good.”
Rhinos have lost four of their last five round one fixtures and Sutcliffe pledged: “It has been four months since we last had a competitive game so as soon as we come to next week we want to get off to a good start and try and give ourselves the best possible chance to start the season strong and then try and carry it on as well.”
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