Leeds Rhinos' Luis Roberts talks facing hometown club Leigh Leopards, reflects on Super League progress

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As a young player just breaking into Betfred Super League, every game is special; but Leeds Rhinos trip to Leigh Leopards on Friday has extra significance for winger Luis Roberts.

Roberts, who will turn 22 later this month, was born in Leigh and made six appearances for his hometown club in 2022. After an unexpected call into Rhinos’ side for round one, he has played in their three games so far and will be looking to impress some familiar faces this weekend.

“All my family are going to be there, they are all Leigh fans,” Roberts revealed. “It will be good to have a run out in front of them and it is always a big game against your previous club, so I am really going to enjoy it.

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“My mum and dad will definitely be supporting me and my grandma and grandad as well, but I think for my family there’ll be mixed emotions. If I score there’ll be a little cheer, but they support Leigh at the end of the day so they do want Leigh to win.”

Luis Roberts attempts to evade Jordan Abdull during Leeds Rhinos' win over Catalans Dragons last week. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Luis Roberts attempts to evade Jordan Abdull during Leeds Rhinos' win over Catalans Dragons last week. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Luis Roberts attempts to evade Jordan Abdull during Leeds Rhinos' win over Catalans Dragons last week. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Leigh did that in all three meetings between the sides last year, including a pre-season game on their ground when Roberts was among Rhinos’ try scorers. They have lost both their fixtures so far this term, scoring only three tries in the process, but the Leeds man warned: “Everyone knows they are a tough team to beat.

“They have got some very good quality players all over the park so we know it is going to be tough. They haven’t won any games yet, but that doesn’t mean anything to us; we know they can play and we just have to go out there like we did last week and put on a performance.”

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Rhinos withstood huge pressure from Catalans Dragons in the 18-10 victory last Saturday and counter-attacked to score three tries, despite only a limited number of chances. Left-winger Ash Handley has crossed for five of Rhinos’ eight tries this year, but Harry Newman - playing in the right-centre- has touched down twice. Roberts is yet to score, but feels he is “slowly getting there”. He said: “Harry is a really good player so I am learning off him and on the other side we’ve got Ash and Paul Momirovski. They are helping me build my game and I’m slowly building a foundation for myself.”

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Luis Roberts celebrates Leeds Rhinos' win against Catalans Dragons last weekend. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Luis Roberts celebrates Leeds Rhinos' win against Catalans Dragons last weekend. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Luis Roberts celebrates Leeds Rhinos' win against Catalans Dragons last weekend. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Brodie Croft’s addition to the squad was an unexpected boost for Roberts. The pair share a car to training and Roberts credited the stand-off’s insight as being a valuable part of his Super League education. He has taken a step forward so far this term, after playing nine times in 2023, including seven starts. Three successive appearances in the starting 13 has equalled his previous best and he added: “That has been really good, building on what we’ve done so far. It is a proud moment for me and hopefully, having that consistency, I can build on what I am already doing and keep improving.”

Roberts ended last year on the casualty list after suffering an ankle injury in a win at Hull FC in September. He didn’t expect to be in the team at the start of this season, but got his chance when David Fusitu’a was ruled out on the eve of the first game because of a knee problem. The first-choice winger had an operation and is expected to be back in contention next month. Derrell Olpherts, who is another wing option, has yet to play this term because of a hip problem, but has been named in the initial squad for Friday.

Roberts admitted: “I wasn’t expecting to start, never mind on the wing. I am just taking my chances as best I can and hopefully I can build on what I have done so far. At the start of the season I was more of a centre, but as the weeks have gone on I feel like I can play both centre and wing now.”

Roberts has been targeted by opposition kickers, but handled whatever has been thrown at him so far and reflected: “I am pleased with that. We’ve had some good half-backs on my side, Mikey Lewis, Jordan Abdull and Marc Sneyd. I’ve had three good kickers against me and [coping with that] has been good for my confidence.”