Leeds Rhinos are starting to click, insists new boy Rhyse Martin

As debuts go, Rhyse Martin’s first appearance for Leeds Rhinos was an eventful introduction to Betfred Super League.

By Peter Smith
Monday, 8th July 2019, 8:54 am
Richard Agar embraces Rhyse Martin and Adam Cuthbertson after victory over Castleford.
Richard Agar embraces Rhyse Martin and Adam Cuthbertson after victory over Castleford.
Rhyse Martin is unveiled at Headingley on Thursday.

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Martin came on as a 49th-minute substitute in Rhinos’ 18-10 derby win at the Jungle, almost scored a try with his first touch and then kicked out on the full from a restart, leading to Castleford Tigers’ second touchdown.

Despite that scare, from Martin’s point of view it all worked out well in the end and he was buzzing afterwards.

“It’s a little bit different in the ruck and the way the play-the-balls are,” the Australian-born Papua New Guinea Test forward said of his first taste of the European game. “It is definitely quicker in some areas, but it was fun – it was very enjoyable and I’m glad we got the win.”

Leeds had not done that at the Jungle since April 2015, a run of four successive losses. They are now two points clear of the relegation zone and Martin insisted: “I think I have come in at a good time, from where the team was at the start of the year to where they are now, I think they are all starting to click.

Robert Lui celebrates scoring the Rhinos' third try at Castleford Tigers.

“That’s really good and it’s easy for me to fit in. The group themselves have really fought hard to get to where they are now and it is going to make my job easier when I come into the team.”

An outstanding defensive effort by Leeds kept Tigers scoreless – despite huge pressure – for almost an hour.

“That just shows what we are trying to build here and what the team’s trying to do for each other,” Martin added.

“Everyone was turning up and stopping those tries. There were two or three times they could have scored, they were in open space, but someone turned up and shut that down.

Jack Walker celebrates his try at Castleford.

“That’s really good, the attitude of the group is awesome and if we keep getting tough wins like that we will be better for it.”

Interim-coach Richard Agar feels Martin’s style of play is ideally suited to Super League and the man himself said: “I am excited to see what the next few weeks bring for me.

“For me personally I have just got to earn the respect of the playing group and to do that I have to put my body on the line and bring that energy and do what I can for the team. You get extra rewards when you are playing good footy, but I want to do my best for the team first.”

A try would have made it a dream start and of his near miss, Martin recalled: “Robert Lui gave me a short ball and I could see the line there, but I just got held up. I was a little bit excited, but I’ll get one!”

As for the kick-off error, that was a lesson learned. The field at the Jungle is shorter than Martin is used to, but he made no excuses.

“The boys told me,” he admitted. “It just carried, it looked like a massive kick, but on a normal field it would probably have been all right.”

Leeds have a full week’s turnaround to Friday’s four-pointer at home to Hull KR and that will be welcome for the newcomer, giving him an opportunity to get some time in on the training field – and more rest.

Martin arrived in England only two days before last week’s game, but stressed: “I am actually feeling all right, I got in a few good nights’ sleep my first two nights here – I haven’t been waking up in the middle of the night so I am lucky.

“With another week’s preparation I will be good to go for the next game. I am excited for the new challenge. I don’t want the boys to think I’ve come over for a holiday, I want to help Leeds get back to where they were. That’s a goal of mine and I want to do my best for the club. They’ve put their faith in me so I am going to give it back.”

A West Yorkshire derby was a baptism of fire for the former Canterbury Bulldogs man and he admitted playing at the Jungle was an eye-opener.

“I loved it,” he said. “I only got in one training session with the boys, but they were telling me about it and what it’s like.

“That home crowd was amazing.”