BOSS BRIAN McDermott says he is happy with the way Leeds Rhinos have begun pre-season training.
Rhinos will have a three-month build-up to the 2015 campaign, with some players already more than a week into preparations.
The Challenge Cup holders’ exit in the first round of the play-offs has led to an early start and the coach insists they are determined to turn last term’s disappointment into a positive ahead of next year.
“It’s all good,” McDermott said of the early stages of Rhinos’ build-up to their First Utility Super League opener at Hull KR on Sunday, February 8.
“We didn’t have the greatest amount of numbers in last week, because we are having a staggered start.
“Some of the younger end were in from November 3 and we got some more back [yesterday].
“The players who’ve had operations – Joel Moon, Brett Delaney and Kevin Sinfield –won’t be in until Christmas and the international players will be back after Christmas.”
With only three players having featured in the Four Nations internationals, Rhinos will have more players together for longer in pre-season than most recent campaigns.
The players have already taken part in on-field skills sessions and McDermott revealed he has changed some of his preparations for his fourth season in charge.
“Each pre-season needs to look a bit different,” he said.
“You are rarely going to do the same things you did before.
“This time last year we did a lot of small-sided games, but you have to remember we are in earlier than we have ever been.
“We have had an earlier start, because we finished [last season] earlier.
“The extra time is a luxury and we have adapted things and we are cutting our cloth accordingly.”
McDermott added: “It would be pointless trying to give the players everything in the first two weeks.
“We have started some basic skills and we’ve been doing conditioning.
“All players say it’s the toughest pre-season they’ve ever done, but it isn’t – it’s just they have short memories and they forget the previous one.”
McDermott said Rhinos will be heading to the United States for a pre-season camp early in the new year.
It will be the fourth time the club have visited Florida, but the first since 2009.
“We are going to link up with a team over there and well do a combined skills session/game with them,” the coach confirmed.
Rhinos will begin their pre-season programme at home to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Boxing Day.
They have also announced a game at Kingstone Press Championship outfit Doncaster on Sunday, February 1.
Leeds are set to face Hunslet Hawks in the annual Lazenby Cup tie and will field a strong side in a testimonial game for prop Jamie Peacock, both in January, but dates have not yet been revealed
Chief executive Gary Hetherington said he expects to confirm Rhinos’ senior squad for next season by the end of this week.
Meanwhile former England captain Peacock says an England versus Samoa clash could be held Down Under on the weekend of the Anzac Test next May, which will mark the centenary of the 1915 Gallipoli landings, and believes Super League clubs should throw their weight behind it.
“There is a ruling out there that you have to go and play international football if you are selected,” he said.
“The players are spread out among different clubs now and they would just have to cope that weekend without those players.”