APPROACHING THE halfway point in the regular Betfred Super League season, Leeds Rhinos are well placed to push on and secure a spot in the top-four and an extra home game in the Super-8s. Here are five talking points ahead of Friday’s visit of Wigan Warriors.
1: Kallum Watkins’ attacking ability has never been in doubt, but he has often been underused. Richie Myler is now providing the service he deserves and Watkins is arguably Rhinos’ player of the season so far. Watkins, who scored two tries and four goals in Sunday’s win at Wakefield, is thriving in his captaincy role and coach Brian McDermott’s decision to appoint him looks like very smart business.
2: Josh Walters has started – and scored in – successive matches. He needs to be consistent, but, after plunging down the squad from number 21 to 30 in the closed season, is now showing he has got what it takes to be a Super League regular. His final tackle on Sunday, when Trinity mounted a last-gasp attack, matched his late try in importance.
3: Teenagers Mikolaj Oledzki and Cameron Smith continue to impress. Oledzki is under long-term contract, but Smith needed game time to prove he can compete at the elite level and he is doing that. This Rhinos team is not the finished article and, unlike St Helens this season or Castleford in 2017, they are unlikely to go through the year losing only a handful of games, but the form shown by a crop of youngsters – Ash Handley, Ashton Golding and Jack Walters and others – is encouraging for the future.
4: All that said, the return of Brett Ferres and Stevie Ward has lifted Rhinos. And having Adam Cuthbertson and Nathaniel Peteru available in the coming weeks will be another boost.
5: Rhinos’ youngsters aren’t just impressing for Leeds. Teenage centre Harry Newman is earning rave reviews on dual-registration for partner club Featherstone Rovers. He has scored six tries in only four appearances for the high-flying Betfred Championship club and Rovers coach John Duffy has described him as a future “superstar”.