Leeds Rhinos need to step up against St Helens says James Donaldson

FORWARD JAMES Donaldson admits it is “hard to put your finger on why” things have gone so badly wrong for Leeds Rhinos this season.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 6:00 am

Rhinos will go into tomorrow’s game against St Helens at Headingley third from bottom in Betfred Super League –on points difference – and with only one win to their name from six rounds.

They are also already out of the Challenge Cup following last Saturday’s 40-16 home defeat by Castleford Tigers. Leeds have been in a similar position several times over the past seven campaigns since the treble success in 2015 but, in previous years, injuries or a disrupted pre-season played a part.

Despite having Richie Myler and Harry Newman on the long-term casualty list and losing several other players to suspension, Rhinos have had a relatively settled side this year and 13 of the team on duty against Castleford were from their top-20 squad.

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Leeds Rhinos' James Donaldson. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Coach Richard Agar has already stepped down after admitting he wasn’t getting enough out of the players and Donaldson said: “It’s really tough to put your finger on something specific as a reason why.”

The former Bradford Bulls and Hull KR back-rower, who joined Leeds at the start of 2019, reflected: “I think the snowball effect of losing games knocks your confidence a bit.

“People are worried about their performances and things like that.

“But I just think we need to work harder for each other and harder as a team, rather than individually. I think, if we do that, we can solve it together.”

Leeds Rhinos' James Donaldson runs at Warrington's Danny Walker. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Donaldson feels collective effort is crucial, rather than players trying to turn things around themselves.

“Everyone deals with pressure differently,” he said. “I have been in similar positions in the past when things have been tough, but the only way to get through it is to pull your sleeves up, work as hard as you can to improve, get your game right and help your team-mates around you.”

Saints, who are top of the table and bidding for a fourth-successive Super League title, would seem to be the last team Rhinos want to face at this stage, but Donaldson disagrees.

He insisted: “I think it is a really good game for us, to really step up now.

“It has been a really tough start to the year – a lot has changed, performances haven’t been there and confidence is low, but the only way you get out of it is by working hard and doing everything you possibly can to put your best performance in for the team.

“That’s probably where we are at the moment and there’s no better team to do it against than St Helens.”

Super League’s bottom club Toulouse Olympique picked up their first win of the season at home to Saints two weeks ago, proving the defending champions are beatable.

“Whoever you play, when you go out of the field you have got to go out fighting and make sure you are putting in your best performance for your team-mates,” Donaldsons said.

“The fans don’t deserve these results and it’s not through lack of trying.

“We are trying our socks off, but it is just not happening on the field.

“We have got to stay positive; you can’t get down in the dumps and feel sorry for yourself.

“The only way you can sort this out is by working hard and really focusing on lots of little things in our games that make a big difference.”

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