Leeds Rhinos will turn their season around says Liam Sutcliffe
Add some smarter plays to the effort already being shown and Leeds Rhinos can still have a good year, the team’s longest-serving player says.
Rhinos have lost four out of five Betfred Super League games, are ninth in the table and already out of the Challenge Cup, but Liam Sutcliffe insists the season is far from a write-off.
“The effort is there, but that doesn’t win you games,” Sutcliffe stressed.
“It is just the little smart areas, which we can control, that we need to fix up.
“If we can sort that out we should be pretty good.”
Sutcliffe made his return from injury in last weekend’s 14-13 loss at Huddersfield Giants and confirmed he “got through fine, no problems”.
The 26-year-old asked to be placed on the transfer list last year, but signed a contract extension in pre-season, keeping him at Leeds until the end of 2024.
He played at stand-off in Rhinos’ opening two games, against Wakefield Trinity and Castleford Tigers, before a three-match layoff caused by a pre-existing knee injury.
“The problems I had with my knee last year crept back in over the last couple of months or so,” he explained.
“It was bothering me before the Cas game, but got worse after that.”
His comeback also came at stand-off, Sutcliffe partnering Kruise Leeming, Leeds’ first-choice hooker who shifted into the halves after Kyle Eastmond was ruled out with a hamstring problem.
Despite his lack of match practice and only limited training, Sutcliffe was coach Richard Agar’s pick as Rhinos’ best player and admitted to being “a little bit pleased” from a personal point of view.
But he insisted: “Obviously I was disappointed to lose the game, especially how we lost it.
“There were some scratchy areas at the start of the second half which didn’t really help us.”
Though he has featured as a half-back in each of his three games this year, Sutcliffe is keen to play in the centres, where he produced some outstanding form last term, following the coronavirus shutdown.
With Luke Gale and Eastmond both expected to be available for next Friday’s home derby against Wakefield, Sutcliffe is likely to return to his favoured role and conceded:“I will be [glad to get back to centre].”
He reflected: “I am pretty sure at the start of the season no one would have put me and Kruise at half-back together.
“It has been tough, you can’t really do much when all your half-backs are out, but hopefully as soon as they get back I can get back to the left-centre and stay there for the year.”
Last week was Leeming’s first experience in the scrum-half position and Eastmond’s late withdrawal meant he went in with no practice.
“I thought he did very well, to say he knew he’D be playing there the day before the game and he hadn’t trained there,” Sutcliffe said.
Gale’s return will also mean the captain taking over as Rhinos’ go-to player for drop goals.
Sutcliffe landed one from four attempts against Giants, who broke their Super League duck thanks to Lee Gaskell’s one-pointer as the hooter sounded.
Sutcliffe admitted: “It’s one of those things, I don’t practice them, I don’t really do much kicking at all because usually I’m not needed to.
“At least I got one, but if we are in a spot like that and Galey’s in the game, it is going to Galey.
“I was just the option there.”
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