THE FIRST big signing is over the line and a new backroom operation in place, but Kevin Sinfield insists the hard work will continue.
Since rejoining Leeds Rhinos as director of rugby in July, former captain Sinfield has been assessing what led to Rhinos’ fall from grace this year and how to put things right.
Incoming coach Dave Furner will begin work next month, heading a rejigged backroom staff which will feature a new conditioner – Chris Black – and physio and with long-serving staff member Jason Davidson in a fresh role as team manager.
Tongan powerhouse Konrad Hurrell has become Rhinos’ first marquee signing and prop Dom Crosby’s loan spell has been extended into a permanent deal.
The activity is in stark contrast to recent close-seasons, but Sinfield insisted he is not ready to put his cue on the rack. He said: “We’re delighted to get Konrad, he will add some strike on the other side of the field to where Kallum [Watkins] is.
“The pair of them will be formidable; whether that is Konrad on the left and Kallum on the right or the other way around, we will see.
“It was really important we added some threat there, but it has taken some work. The recruitment side of things is something we’ve been working really hard on.
“To only get one over the line at this stage is a bit frustrating because of the work we’ve put in, but I think there’s a realisation and understanding that the Super League market is difficult because a lot of clubs have got their best English talent tied up on decent contracts.
“Overseas, the salary cap is that big you have to work really hard to uncover someone who fits what you are after - and even then he might not fit our environment. We have done a lot of homework and been down some blind alleys, but it’s really important we bring in the right people.”
Rhinos are keen to make another marquee addition and have been linked with a host of NRL players, including Manly’s superstar prop Martin Taupau, but Sinfield is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“We have been linked with everybody, as Leeds always are, but we are going about our business quietly and we are trying to improve our squad,” Sinfield said.
It is understood several current first team squad members – including Ashton Golding, Adam Cuthbertson, Matt Parcell, Anthony Mullally, Mitch Garbutt, Jack Ormondroyd and Josh Walters – would be allowed to leave if another club came in for them.
Sinfield would not comment on individuals, but admitted: “It is fair to say we are trying to refresh the squad and we need to make room on our salary cap to bring players in.
“That’s not always easy. When you are at a fantastic club like ours players don’t necessarily want to go. They have contracts, we are bound by employment law and we want to do the right thing by the players themselves. We need to be a club that cares for its players and people who work here.”
Sinfield insisted nobody will be pushed out of the door. He added: “There’s some players who, for their own careers, it is the right time to move on – and I feel it’s probably also the right time for the club.
“We are trying to work through that in the best possible way for all parties, but if at the end of the day those players stay we will make the best of it.
“We have got new staff structure and environment and we’ll get the best out of those players. They are not bad players, but the point is to refresh it and add some quality. If not, we will roll our sleeves up, get ready and work hard in pre-season.”