Leeds Rhinos: New recruit offers Mac many more pack options

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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AUSTRALIAN FORWARD Adam Cuthbertson’s versatility and experience will be vital for Leeds Rhinos next season, coach Brian McDermott has predicted.

Cuthbertson was due to start today’s Tetley’s Festive Challenge derby against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the front-row.

But the powerful packman – who is known for his ability to offload in a tackle – has also played hooker, second-row and loose-forward in Australia’s elite NRL.

Cuthbertson was packing down alongside Kylie Leuluai today, but Rhinos have another frontline prop in Jamie Peacock and McDermott hinted he could use all three in the same starting side next term.

“He is a middle man,” McDermott said of Cuthbertson, who is 6ft 2ins tall and tips the scales at more than 17 stone.

“This is where the game has developed.

“Sean O’Loughlin (of Wigan Warriors) is probably as much of a loose-forward as you are going to get in today’s game.

“He is a big man and yet can play with the ball and use his hands and a fair bit comes through him.

“But then you will have a loose-forward who is a straight up and down man – quite often I played Ian Kirke or Ryan Bailey there, who are metre-gainers and all the football will come from somewhere else.

“But Cuthbertson could do both of those. He is a prop, but he would not look out of place at loose-forward, who is not quite as restricted in his role on the field.

“He has a good pair of hands, he absolutely can play.”

Cuthbertson began training at the start of this month and McDermott said he is pleased with the way his only new signing has adapted to life at Leeds.

“He has settled in really well,” McDermott said of the 29-year-old, who played for Manly Sea Eagles against Rhinos in the 2009 World Club Challenge and has also had spells with Cronulla Sharks and St George-Illawarra Dragons.

“He has been under some good coaches and in some good systems.

“He has been a good performer in every team he has played in.

“I wouldn’t quite call him the full package, I wouldn’t quite say he is the complete player, but he is certainly beyond that development stage.

“He is a senior player – he was a senior member of the NRL, he has played a lot of games and he brings a lot of knowledge with him, which we have already benefited from.

“To be fair to Adam, he has really tried hard and you can see he has had a big focus on settling in and getting on with us and becoming a Rhinos player and learning how the Rhinos do things.”

Cuthbertson, who is beginning a four-year contract with Leeds, has confirmed he is interested in pressing for England selection.

Though he was born in the Sydney area, his father is originally from Warrington and he is likely to apply for a United Kingdom passport during his spell at Rhinos.