Leeds Rhinos' lower grades gear up for new season

Ball control and game management are the focus of Leeds Rhinos’ second and third teams as they prepare the new season.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 6:00 am

The reserve team competition began last weekend and Rhinos play their first fixture on Sunday when they visit Wakefield Trinity (5.30pm).

Leeds fielded a mixture of fringe, reserve and academy players in pre-season defeats at Featherstone Rovers (34-22) and Hunslet (48-6) and a mainly under-18s side lost 52-8 away to Newcastle Thunder.

Academy coach Chev Walker - who was in charge for all three games - admitted it was a big step up for young players against experienced opposition in teams expected to do well this year, but said they are aware of what they need to do better.

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Leeds Tyler Dupree takes on the Hunslet defence.Picture by Craig Hawkhead.

“They have to learn quickly that when you give things away too cheaply it is going to cost you in the long-run,” Walker warned.

“I think the biggest takeaway from the Newcastle and Hunslet games was the physicality of it.

“A lot of them won’t experience it unless they play reserves, which is a really strong comp’, or they get put out on dual-registration.

“I also think they need to learn about game management.

Rhinos academy coach Chev Walker. Picture by Steve Riding.

“If they control the ball they are fit enough and have enough skill about them to cause teams problems, but the fact they had to do miles more work and physically they are not built for it yet cost them.”

Rhinos are expected to include players from partner club Featherstone in their reserve side, which will be coached by Rob Burrow.

The under-18s will return to the north east to begin their Academy Championship season on Saturday, February 29.

Walker admitted: “They have still got a lot of work to do.

Harvey Whiteley has rejoined Rhinos as a reserve team player. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“I will hold my hand up as a coach - I can tell them to do stuff and they will do it, but I think I am going to have to teach them why they are doing it.

“[Against Hunslet] there was a couple of times they went through with stuff we’ve been practising, but they didn’t know that wasn’t the time to put it on.

“I will try to give them a better understanding of why we do stuff, not how we do it.”