Leeds Rhinos: Visit of Salford Red Devils start of 'critical period' chief warns

Friday's visit of Salford Red Devils marks the start of a  crucial spell in Leeds Rhinos’ season, chief executive Gary Hetherington says.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 4:45 am

Rhinos travel to Hull a week tomorrow, followed by successive Sunday and Friday home games against Warrington Wolves and Castleford Tigers.

Hetherington expects Leeds’ strongest side of the season so far to be on show this week and insisted Rhinos are capable of reaching October’s Grand Final.

Leeds are seventh in Betfred Super League, one place outside the play-offs, but Hetherington said: “There’s a real desire within the camp to be successful again.

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Gary Hetherington. Picture by Matthew Merrick.

“We are still harbouring ambitions to finish the season at Old Trafford.

“I think, starting on Friday, this is a critical period.

“We have got four games in two weeks and this is a period that could well define our season.

“Having just lost to Catalans twice in the last two weeks, after such a good run before that, it is important we get back to winning ways.”

Rhinos have been hit by injuries, coronavirus and suspensions this term, but Hetherington reckons the club’s next generation of youngsters have proved they can cope with regular Super League rugby.

“I think we have got an outstanding crop of young players,” he said.

“One of the silver linings of having had so many injuries this season is the opportunities these young players have had - and they have all taken it.”

Coach Richard Agar will name an initial squad for Friday’s game today.

Second-rower Rhyse Martin is available after a one-match ban and wing Ash Handley has completed a spell in isolation.

Forwards Zane Tetevano (Covid and Achilles injury) and Mikolaj Oledzki (isolating/foot injury) could also come into contention.

Rhinos this week confirmed the signing of Huddersfield Giants’ Australian half-back Aidan Sezer on a two-year contract beginning next season.

St Helens forward James Bentley penned a similar deal a month ago.

“They are two experienced, ambitious players who will add to the squad for sure,” Hetherington said.

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