Leeds Rhinos: McDermott undecided on Moon’s long-term position

Joel Moon.
Joel Moon.
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Leeds Rhinos’ Brian McDermott has not ruled out makeshift stand-off Joel Moon becoming his regular half-back – even if sometimes the head coach doesn’t know what the Australian’s doing.

The club bought Moon from Salford Red Devils for an undisclosed fee in November 2012 and he quickly established himself as one of Super League’s top centres.

Brett Delaney.

Brett Delaney.

However, the ex-New Zealand Warriors star has unexpectedly slotted in at stand-off for much of this season and proved just as influential there as in-form Rhinos mount their latest title assault.

Moon will line-up alongside captain Danny McGuire again as they attempt to defeat Super League leaders Castleford Tigers at Magic Weekend in Newcastle on Sunday.

With Kevin Sinfield having long retired and McGuire approaching his 35th birthday, it begs the question whether McDermott sees the former Exiles centre as the long-term answer to any creative conundrums.

“I wouldn’t say he’s a long-term half-back yet, but I’ve got no plans to move him from that position right now,” said the head coach, about the gifted 28-year-old who started out his NRL career as a stand-off and is one of the game’s silkiest runners.

“I don’t think he’s doing anything different by the way – he’s just doing it in the middle third of the field instead of over on that left side.

“If you can work out what that is then let me know; that’s the strength of him – his ability.

“Sometimes you think ‘what the hell is he doing? Is he falling over or tripping up?’

“And then ‘Oh no, he’s made a break’. And that’s how he looks.”

McDermott conceded the incisive Moon has qualities as both centre and in the halves.

“I think for years Ryan Hall was extremely well serviced by Keith Senior,” he said, about the club’s prolific England winger.

“And since Joel Moon came in he’s having less joy; he’s not a winger’s centre, Moony. He’s a team’s centre almost. We get a lot off him when he’s making a break or finding a pass for a try.

“Or he gets down and plays it quickly after scattering the defence and we go again.

“He does bring that facet of his game and shifts it into the middle of the field.

“It’s working for us at the moment but I don’t think it’s at the stage where I’m putting a stamp, a number six on his back and saying ‘you’re the man’.

“I knew he’d be a safe option and a good option for us, but I think everybody’s raised an eyebrow and said ‘wow.’”

Meanwhile, McDermott will welcome Kallum Watkins back into his side on Sunday after the England centre was rested in the Challenge Cup win over Barrow Raiders.

He also sees Australian second-row Brett Delaney return but has – perhaps crucially against Castleford’s formidable pack – lost two of his main props to injury.

Mitch Garbutt won’t be available due to concussion while fellow Australian Keith Galloway requires minor surgery.

McDermott explained: “Unfortunately he got something caught in his knee yesterday (Wednesday) at training so it looks like he’ll be having a bit of a clean-out there.

“Hopefully it’ll be just a couple of weeks out. It probably does leave us a little light and we have to make sure we counter that.”

“A lot of that rests on the likes of Brad Singleton and Adam Cuthbertson who, Cuthbo in particular, have both been great this year.

“They were looking forward to this game anyway but obviously have to do a job for us now.”