Carl Ablett: New-look Leeds Rhinos will still challenge for trophies

Leeds Rhinos' Carl Ablett.
Leeds Rhinos' Carl Ablett.
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More success is on Leeds Rhinos’ agenda this year, Carl Ablett says.

The 30-year-old forward already has six Grand Final wins and two Challenge Cup triumphs under his belt and was the only ever-present last season, when Rhinos completed the treble.

That was the greatest season in the club’s history, but rather than resting on their laurels, Ablett said the glory of 2015 has made Rhinos more hungry and he insisted they are aiming to – and must – be even better this term.

“When you win things you just want to get back out there and do it again,” Ablett stressed.

“We are under no illusions, last year was really tight.

“We won the league leaders’ shield with less than 10 seconds left. We won the Grand Final and that was really tight and it could have gone either way in the last 10 minutes.

“We weren’t miles ahead of everyone else. We managed to pull a few big games out, but everyone’s going to raise their game this year.”

Grand Final victims Wigan Warriors were pipped to top spot on points difference and have re-signed talisman Sam Tomkins.

Hull, Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers and St Helens are among other teams tipped to improve on their 2015 performance and Ablett admitted: “All teams have made some good signings and I’m sure everyone’s been training hard. I expect it to be a really tough competition this year.”

Ablett knows Rhinos will miss players of the quality of Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, but reckons Leeds remain strong across the board.

“When you look at every position, the squad is probably as deep as it has ever been,” he said.

“We have lost some leaders and some experience – probably three of the best that have ever played at the club.

“But I think we have signed well and we are excited about what this group can do. We are looking forward to getting the season started and seeing where we are at.”

Ablett, who made his debut in 2004 and is in his testimonial year, said he is relishing taking more of a leadership role.

“That’s a natural progression in the squad,” he said. “You lose some of the elder statesmen.

“We have still got some experience in Rob [Burrow] and Jonesy [Jamie Jones-Buchanan] and me, that next group.

“There’s a lot of players who have played in some big games, including people like Keith [Galloway] who has played plenty of games in the NRL.

“I don’t think we lack experience and we have got some great youngsters coming through, so hopefully it should be a great mix.”

On a personal level, Ablett reckons he could have another five years, at least, ahead of him as a player.

“I have had 10 years of knowing what it takes and how to get my body right,” he said.

“I am feeling very good at this time and I am excited about this coming year, with the evolution of the team.

“It is a different year now and I can’t wait for it to start.”