Leeds Rhinos recruitment update: Coach Richard Agar outlines priorities for 2022 Super League season
Leeds Rhinos “could do” with another big forward on their books for next season, coach Richard Agar admits, but he has confirmed they may complete their overseas quota with the best-available player, regardless of position.
Rhinos have made three signings for 2022, bringing in second-rower James Bentley from Friday's hosts St Helens, along with Huddersfield Giants’ Aidan Sezer and fellow half-back Blake Austin, of Warrington Wolves.
Stand-off Rob Lui is returning home to Australia at the end of this season and Rhinos have announced centre Konrad Hurrell and prop King Vuniyayawa will move on after rejecting the club’s contract offer.
Sezer will replace Lui on Rhinos’ quota and Austin effectively takes over from Hurrell, but Vuniyayawa’s exit means Rhinos have room for one more import.
Agar confirmed: “We are looking, we think our finger’s on the pulse, we know roughly what we’ve got to spend and we think we can improve as and when the right type of player comes up.”
Assessing the current situation, Agar stressed: “Having people like Matt Prior and Zane Tetevano and Rhyse Martin and Konrad Hurrell is how you strengthen your squad.
“It’s really key how you fill your overseas spots. We have lost King, through budgetary [reasons] really, we’ve been waiting to see how Jack Walker comes back [from a long-term foot injury] and Konrad Hurrell will be leaving us, but in a lot of those positions we feel covered.
“We probably could do with another big guy, but at the same time, if all our guys are fit and able and well, there’s a lot of game time in our middles at the moment.
“Zane, Matty, Mik Oledzki and Cam Smith all play terrific game time, Bodene Thompson’s still in there, Tom Holroyd’s getting better and better all the time, Donno [James Donaldson] is still around.
“We’re absolutely not panicking, thinking we are shy and short of a big bloke.”
Players from the NRL often become available relatively late in pre-season and Rhinos are willing to wait. Agar said: “Sometimes patience can be a real virtue in the market and what might not be available now may well be available if there’s any coaching changes in the NRL, when there’s salary cap movement or late movement.
“I think the market has been affected in the NRL because there’s been no reserve grade, the general push-through [from lower grades] has not happened as much over there, but the market is starting to move a little bit more.
“We have got our eye on everything, I speak to a lot of people every day over there, whether they be head coaches, recruitment managers, general managers.
“I catch up with people regularly so we are fairly aware of what’s going on.”
The Leeds boss added: “We may well try and take the best player for our budget who is on the board, regardless of position.
“There’s a couple of positions where we think strength in depth will help us a bit more than others, but at the same time, if we can find a player who can really change our team, regardless of position, we may well have a look at that.
“That could be a forward, a middle-forward or a back - but we are very mindful too of succession planning and pathways. We want to make sure Holroyd gets through, [Morgan] Gannon gets through - to name a couple - and we’ll be pulling some more guys up from our academy next year.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos need to win one of their final two regular-season games - tomorrow or at home against Hull KR next Friday - to secure a place in the Super League play-offs.
Last Saturday’s Magic Weekend win over Hull left them fifth in the table and Agar reckons they are “in a good spot”.
He said: “We absolutely control our own fate from here on in.
“I think what we’ve had to go through this year would have finished a lot of teams, but you saw last weekend the spirit and determination is very strong.”
St Helens: from Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Thompson, Knowles, Mata’utia, Amor, Welsby, A Smith, Batchelor, Dodd, Wingfield, Eaves, Norman, Davies.
Leeds Rhinos: from T Briscoe, Newman, Handley, Leeming, Prior, Martin, Dwyer, Myler, C Smith, Holroyd, Thompson, A Sutcliffe, Walters, L Briscoe, Donaldson, O’Connor, Broadbent, Hall, Edwards, Gannon, Johnson.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).
Kick-off: Friday, 7.45pm.
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