Leeds Rhinos old boy Liam Sutcliffe talks Headingley return, life at Hull FC and playing under Tony Smith
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Sutcliffe scored a debut try for Hull in last Sunday’s 32-30 win over Castleford Tigers, three days after Rhinos’ season began with a 42-10 hammering at Warrington Wolves.
“They will want to bounce back from the performance last weekend and I am sure they will,” warned the 28-year-old centre whose last game for Leeds was the 2022 Grand Final defeat by St Helens.
“They have got some classy players in the team and I kind of know what to expect from them - they will come out firing and want to put on a show so we will be expecting a tough game.
“I don’t know what to expect as an away player, but Headingley is a great place to play and I should imagine they’ll come out wanting to put last week behind them and kick-start their season.”
Sutcliffe made 223 appearances for Leeds Rhinos from 2013 to last year, scoring 72 tries, 258 goals and two one-pointers.
He was a Challenge Cup winner twice, in 2014 and 2020 and played in Rhinos’ 2017 Super League title triumph, but is staying calm about returning to face his former club in only the second competitive fixture of his Hull career.
He insisted “I hadn’t thought about it until this week, before that I was just concentrating on pre-season and getting the season going against Cas.
“It will be good to go back and see some faces I haven’t seen for a few months, but it is just another game.”
Of what sort of welcome he might receive from the South Stand, Sutcliffe admitted: “I’m not too sure, I’ll have to wait and see what they come out with. I am not too worried, I didn’t leave on bad terms. It was just time for a change.”
Though Hull are traditionally one of Rhinos’ fiercest rivals, Leeds-born Sutcliffe has had no trouble adjusting to new surroundings.
He said: “It’s really good, I’ve settled in pretty quick to be honest, pretty easily. Everyone was welcoming, all the lads and staff and I am really enjoying it.
“It is different, just the little things like the travel and the place you train at and the ideas at Hull, but change is good and I have really enjoyed my time here so far.”
Sutcliffe won’t be the only ex-Leeds man facing his former team after an off-season move. Hooker Brad Dwyer made a similar journey, along with Rhinos team manager Jason Davidson who is now the head conditioner at Hull.
“I think it helped a little bit at first,” Sutcliffe said of having familiar faces around him at his new club. “But as soon as you get to know everyone, it doesn’t really matter.
“There were a few other new faces and I knew a couple of the lads before I went there and we have all fitted in pretty well.”
Another intriguing aspect of this week’s game is the family link between the team bosses. Rhinos’ Rohan Smith is the nephew of Hull’s Tony Smith and it will be the first time they have faced off as head coaches.
Having played under both, Sutcliffe said Tony is similar to Rohan “in some bits”, but stressed: “He is his own man and coach and he is class.
“I am loving working with him so far. I didn’t know what to expect, I’d heard a little bit from players I’ve played with who’ve played under him, but until I got to work with him I wasn’t too sure.
I am really enjoying his coaching and just the way he goes about things in general. He is a laugh around the place, he lets us have a laugh and that’s really enjoyable.”
Smith, Sutcliffe and Hull made a positive start against Castleford, despite a late scare when the visitors hit back from 32-6 behind.
“We were disappointed with the last quarter or so,” Sutcliffe reflected. “Cas got a roll on and we didn’t know how to stop them, but we will look at what went wrong and try to fix that up.
“It was round one and I was happy with the win in the first game, I just wanted to win, to start off well.”
Of his try, Sutcliffe added: “I don’t normally get one in the first game of the season, so I was pretty happy with that, to get that out of the way.”