Leeds Rhinos prospect Corey Hall pledges to keep learning after making full Super League debut against Castleford Tigers
Leeds Rhinos are doing it tough in the injury front, but there are signs it could be a case of short-term pain leading to long-term gain.
Eighteen-year-old centre Corey Hall became the third rookie to get a start for Leeds in their opening two games of the season, when they lost 18-10 to Castleford Tigers at St Helens on Good Friday.
Jack Broadbent, now with five first team appearances to his name, has been one of Rhinos’ best players in both matches this year and Alex Sutcliffe’s powerful defence made an impression against Tigers.
Jarrod O’Connor, 19 and 20-year-old Sam Walters have both been unused members of Leeds’ 21-man squad in Betfred Super League rounds one and two and Hall reckons the experience young players are gaining now can only benefit them and Rhinos in the future.
Leeds have eight players on their casualty list, plus new signing Kyle Eastmond who is waiting for his return to rugby league and Hall said: “I think it is tough at the minute, but me, Alex and Jack - and the other lads such as Jarrod and Sam - are relishing this moment.
“We know when the first-choice players come back we’ve got to keep up on our A-game, whether that’s training or playing, so the coaches know we are ready.”
Hall, 18, was born in Sheffield and had a spell in Wakefield Trinity’s youth system before joining Wigan Warriors.
Leeds signed him ahead of the 2020 season and he made two substitute appearances last year.
Last Friday’s derby was his first start and he recalled: “It was a massive day for me.
“It was good to get my first start and a taste of Super League, what it’s like to start and finish a game.
“I thought the game was fast, but I didn’t think it was anything I couldn’t come up with.
“I’ve come away from the game knowing the things I need to work on now.”
Hall replaced hamstring injury victim Richie Myler in the only change to the 17 who beat Wakefield Trinity in round one.
He slotted into his specialist centre role, with Broadbent moving to full-back.
“I found out [on Thursday] morning I was playing,” Hall added.
“I had an inkling before that, but it was confirmed then.
“Going into the pre-season I was going to take it every day as it goes, but when I started seeing the injuries coming left, right and centre I thought I’d got a real chance [of getting some game time].
“You just have to make the most of every opportunity you get.
“As a young lad, you’ve got to take it with both hands.”
Myler is expected to be sidelined for up to three weeks and coach Richard Agar does not expect any of Leeds’ other injured players to feature in the Betfred Challenge Cup against St Helens in five days’ time.
Potentially, Eastmond could come in for his debut, allowing Liam Sutcliffe to move from stand-off into the centres, but Leeds’ injury problems in the backs will mean more opportunities for some of their youngsters over the next few weeks.
“That’s Rich’s decision,” Hall said of whether he expects more call-ups.
“The only thing I can do and control is making sure I come away from this [last Friday’s] game and make sure I work on bettering myself.”
Hall played in Rhinos’ pre-season match at Huddersfield and reckons he will learn from every time he steps on to the field.
He recalled: “I came away from the Huddersfield game knowing my exit sets have got to be better, that’s what I took away from that.
“I worked on it and that showed [against Tigers].
“It is my defence I need to work on, but it’s just a matter of taking bits away from every game that will better me as a player.”
Agar admitted after the game it had been a tough baptism for Hall and the centre should have prevented Tigers’ opening try, scored by Oliver Holmes.
But Hall proved he can bring down bigger, more experienced opponents with an important tackle on Liam Watts in the second half.
“I was pleased with that, but it all comes down to our systems - I know Tommy Briscoe would have had my shoulder, outside me,” he said.
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