THESE ARE tough times for Leeds Rhinos, who are on a run of four successive defeat – and are running out of players. Here are five talking points following the 25-18 loss to Huddersfield Giants.
1: Rhinos are in trouble. Seventh in Betfred Super League, they are now only three points clear of ninth-placed Catalans Dragons who they play in nine days’ time. For that game they will be without their England players – if they have any – as well as anyone on the casualty list. A fight to avoid the middle-eights Qualifiers is no longer looming, it has arrived. A second bottom-four finish in three seasons would be disastrous for Rhinos and – with Toronto and Toulouse both likely to feature – the Qualifiers will be tougher this season than in 2016.
2: Leeds have a lengthy injury list and seem to pick up several more every game, but the real issue is whether the squad is good enough. Nobody has been called up from outside the 31-man full-time group and everyone who has played this year should be good enough to do the job. Clearly, that hasn’t been the case.
3: Unless there’s a drastic improvement – and even if there is – changes will be needed in the off-season. Rhinos have a host of players coming off contract and so far only two new deals have been announced. Some players will be leaving at the end of the year and the squad needs refreshing. Several recruits brought in over the last few seasons haven’t made the grade. Headingley’s reduced capacity this year has meant some fans haven’t been attending and without big-name recruits it’ll be difficult to temp them back.
4: Ashton Golding’s selection on the bench against Giants made sense, but was tough on Brad Dwyer. Golding has impressed as replacement hooker and can also cover anywhere in the backs. But long-term, he needs a set position.
5: Mikolaj Oledzki’s neck injury led to a worrying few minutes, though it seems he is now on the mend and set to make a full recovery. Both medical teams deserve credit for the way he was cared for on the pitch and afterwards.