Leeds Rhinos news: Recruitment update, Derrell Olpherts role revealed and pre-season begins

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Leeds Rhinos are looking to make one more signing for 2023, coach Rohan Smith has confirmed.

Smith says they are aiming to bring in an outside-back, but he does not expect any more departures from the current squad.

Leeds have a vacancy after centre/full-back Zak Hardaker rejected their offer of a new contract and decided instead to join promoted Leigh Leopards on a two-year deal.

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His departure and the retirement of prop Matt Prior has created space on Rhinos’ salary cap and overseas quota.

Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Additions so far are props Justin Sangare (from Toulouse) and Sam Lisone (Gold Coast Titans); full-back Luke Hooley (Batley Bulldogs); back-rowers James McDonnell (Wigan Warriors) and Toby Warren (York City Knights) and outside-backs Derrell Olpherts (Castleford Tigers) and Luis Roberts (Leigh Centurions).

Leigh’s Papua New Guinea World Cup centre Nene MacDonald is understood to be top of Rhinos’ list of targets for the remaining vacancy.

Smith said: “I’d say potentially there’s one more incoming at some point between now and the start of the season, but there’s no plans for any outgoings.

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“We are currently chatting to three or four different players about potential availability - outside-backs.

New signing Derrell Olpherts will train at centre and wing, Rhinos coach Rohan Smith says. Picture by Leeds Rhinos.New signing Derrell Olpherts will train at centre and wing, Rhinos coach Rohan Smith says. Picture by Leeds Rhinos.
New signing Derrell Olpherts will train at centre and wing, Rhinos coach Rohan Smith says. Picture by Leeds Rhinos.
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“I am happy with the squad, I think there’s a good mix of experience and youth. We have got depth in every position and I think almost everyone on our roster has their best footy ahead of them.

“Some of our more seasoned veterans, I think they either had among their best seasons last year or their best seasons are ahead.

“That’s really what I am excited about, the growth and improvement we have in us.”

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Big-hitting Sam Lisone, pictured tackling Jared Waerea-Hargreaves during a Tesat between Samoa and New Zealand, is a high-profile addition for Rhinos. Picture by Andrew Cornaga/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ.Big-hitting Sam Lisone, pictured tackling Jared Waerea-Hargreaves during a Tesat between Samoa and New Zealand, is a high-profile addition for Rhinos. Picture by Andrew Cornaga/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ.
Big-hitting Sam Lisone, pictured tackling Jared Waerea-Hargreaves during a Tesat between Samoa and New Zealand, is a high-profile addition for Rhinos. Picture by Andrew Cornaga/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ.

Olpherts played mainly as a winger for Tigers, but offers utility value in the outside-backs, according to Smith.

He is one of the players already in training and the coach said: “Derrell looks good, he has come in fresh and in really good condition, ready to make the most of his opportunity at the Rhinos.

“He will be given an opportunity to train at centre throughout the pre-season, but he will also be training as a winger. The competition for places is there so it is up to them all to work themselves out.”

An initial group of players began training next week and more are due in from Monday. Smith said: “Another few start on the 21st and a couple on the 28th.

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“There’s a few guys who won’t start until the middle of December, based on being involved in the World Cup and whatnot.

“It is the situation, there’s no way around it and it is giving an opportunity to a lot of our young players to get a lot of attention and get progressed quickly.

“We’ve got a lot of young players training with us who have just graduated from the academy or previous graduates from the academy over the past couple of seasons.

“We have got a young group in currently, but it gives them a lot of focus and attention. Everyone’s positive at this time of year, we expected people to come back in good nick and they have.”

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