LEEDS RHINOS have pledged to keep the core of their current squad together for the rest of their careers.
With less than a week to go to the start of the new First Utility Super League season, England second-row Carl Ablett has become the latest player to commit to a five-year contract.
Test winger Tom Briscoe joined the club from Hull on a similar deal in the autumn and chief executive Gary Hetherington said other negotiations are on-going.
“Carl is now contracted until the end of 2018,” Hetherington confirmed. He had a couple of years left anyway, but this is a significant extension.
“We are now embarking on a policy of repeating what we did probably 10 years ago with players like Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
“Those players effectively pledged their careers to the Rhinos and Carl Ablett has now done the same.
“He is the second player to do that. Tom Briscoe signed a five-year contract when he joined us and we would envisage him playing out his career with the Rhinos.
“Carl is already a senior player and a senior international and at 28 I would think he will play out his career here.
“He has already achieved a great deal and hopefully his best years are still to come.”
Ablett insisted the long-term deal won’t affect the way he plays.
He said: “”I am not somebody who looks too far ahead.
“I always concentrate on the here and now and trying to get better.
“It is nice, but it doesn’t make any difference to the way I play. All I am thinking about is making sure I can get better this year.”
Ablett said he relishes taking more of a leadership role in the team as some of the senior players near the end of their career.
“There’s a lot of the older end who are coming to the end,” he said.
“We have got some great young lads and some of us who are in the middle of their career.
“I am in between, I have played a lot of games, but – even though I don’t look it – I am still quite young and I’ve still got a good few years left in me.
“Whatever I can do to help that transition and help the club move forward, I will do,” he added.
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott said: “Carl has, over the last few years, progressed into not only a regular starter with us, but also broken into the international team.
“He has an all-round game of high-quality attack, supported by his sound and efficient defence that can see him play at ease either as a back-row or an attacking three-quarter.
“Carl has come through the ranks since joining Leeds as a junior and is just another case of how this great club helps, provides and nurtures home-grown talent. He has many more years to play yet. He can already look back at a hugely successful career, but still be even more excited with what’s on offer to him and this team in the next few seasons.”
McDermott added: “It’s an exciting time for the current team as over the course of the next few years there’ll be a significant transition with the old guard handing over the task of maintaining success to our new leaders. We see Carl as one of these men to lead from the front and continue the club’s philosophies that have been in place for a good few years.”