Leeds Rhinos news as coach Rohan Smith confirms Paul Momirovski situation ahead of Super League opener
The 27-year-old former Sydney Roosters star joined Leeds last month, but was granted leave to attend a prior commitment Down Under and missed James Donaldson’s testimonial game against Hull KR at the start of February. He returned to training today (Monday) and is set to make his debut in Friday’s Betfred Super League opener at home to Salford Red Devils.
Speaking at his weekly preview press conference this afternoon, coach Rohan Smith confirmed: “He looks good. He was moving well at training today and he has integrated back into Leeds well. He is pencilled in [for Friday].”
Smith is unconcerned by Momirovski’s lack of pre-season game time. He added: “Last year we had four or five players unavailable at the start of the year and they played their first game in a Super League game. It’s just the way it is.
“The way most of the other clubs have played their pre-season, a lot of their leading players have played half a game, to dust the cobwebs off I’m assuming. We felt the need to push a few of ours a bit further against Hull KR because it was the first time our spine had played together, ever. Next year I’d assume they’ll play less.”
Momirovski could be one of six debutants in Rhinos’ 17 this week, alongside Lachie Miller, Brodie Croft, Matt Frawley, Andy Ackers and Mickael Goudemand. They all played at least once in pre-season, but Goudemand missed the Hull KR game with a pectoral muscle strain.
Smith confirmed the Frenchman is in contention to face Salford and said: “He has made a great transition to the UK. He was adamant he wanted to come to the UK at some point and really challenge himself at a big club. His relationship with [fellow French international] Justin [Sangare] has been really helpful. Justin has helped him integrate and helped him with the language, but I think Mickael speaks better English than a lot of us. He has fitted in really well, he is a very competitive person and very intelligent. He picks things up quickly and I am looking forward to him getting started as a Rhino.”
Rhinos’ head of performance Richard Hunwicks speaks French, having spent time in a similar role with Catalans Dragons. Smith said he has been “great for Justin and Mickael” and added: “There’s a bunch of other players trying to learn some French or are asking Justin and Mickael to teach them words and phrases here and there, so they’ve been made to feel really welcome in our culture. I think it’s really important in a team environment you are made up of different cultures within the team culture.”