FOUR WEEKS on from his infamous email to fans, chief executive Gary Hetherington reckons Leeds Rhinos have made a positive start to the season and their record defeat at Castleford Tigers was “a one-off blip”.
Hetherington told supporters after the 66-10 loss at the Jungle, on March 2, he would be in a better position to make a judgement about the performance of players, coaches and management at the end of the month.
Rhinos have responded with four successive wins, rising to second in Betfred Super League and Hetherington reckons they have shown their true colours.
He said: “What that email of mine did was raise a couple of questions to all of us.
“One was how would the team have performed if it included a lot of our senior players who didn’t play (against Castleford)?
“Secondly, was it a blip that can happen to every team, or was it symptomatic of a deeper-rooted problem?
“The only way to accurately judge that was in a reasonable period of time. It was not something you can make a proper assessment of in the immediate aftermath.
“The last four weeks and games has given us a fair assessment. That assessment is that the experience at Cas, as painful as it was at the time, was a one-off blip, that happened to us and indeed could happen to anybody else.
“That is the nature of Super League at the moment when a team plays to its full potential against another which, for a variety of reasons, is off-form and depleted.
“The team and everybody concerned has responded in the best-possible way with four consecutive victories, which is a rare feat for any team in Super League.”
Hetherington insisted Rhinos’ recent run has “not come as a surprise at all”, but he denied the pressure is now off.
“It is an ongoing process,” he said. “We entered the season with a very strong and competitive squad that was well capable of challenging for major honours.
“We are seven weeks into the season and I am still as confident as I was at the start. That confidence should be shared by fans, players, coaches, management and everybody else. That’s not to say there won’t be other blips throughout the season and periods when we find it difficult to win games.
“I predicted before the season that every team in Super League would find it difficult to win games and two of the leading contenders could find themselves in a similar position to ourselves and Huddersfield last year. I just didn’t know who those two would be.
“It is symptomatic of what we have created in Super League – a very competitive, fairly even competition with a fine line between getting on a winning run and a losing one.
“Our squad has a balance of youth and experience and a hunger and a quiet determination to recover from the trials and tribulations of last season and get back to being a leading contender that can compete in major matches and major finals.
“We are seven weeks in and it has been a really positive start to the season, but we are just at the start of April and nothing is won in April.
“There’s a long way to go, every week’s a battle and that will continue to round 30.”
Asked if he has decided against making changes to the playing or coaching staff, Hetherington insisted: “There is a perception we don’t make many changes, but that is not because we’re reluctant to or we don’t believe it’s beneficial.
“You need to be confident any change is for the better.
“A lot of organisations make changes because they feel a need to or because there’s a demand to do so, without being certain that will bring a team improvement.
“That’s a judgement call. If we believe change can make us a better team we are always prepared to make change.”