BOSS BRIAN McDermott says Leeds Rhinos’ changing of the guard has already begun.
Six members of Rhinos’ 25-man full-time squad are aged 30 or older and another four will reach that milestone this year – and McDermott insisted he is already planning for when some of the club’s all-time greats hang up their boots.
Prop Brad Singleton has come off the substitutes’ bench in all of Rhinos’ six games so far ths year and the coach said that is vital experience for when the time comes to take over from veteran front-rowers Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai.
“The transition has already started, that is absolutely the case,” McDermott stated. “The transition isn’t ‘see you later’ to a couple of legends of the club and ‘hello’ to a couple of new ones. By the time some of our senior players leave, some of our young fellas need to have a good number of Super League or first-team games under their belt.
“I can’t just say ‘see you later’ to Jamie Peacock or Kylie Leuluai and then all of a sudden bring in someone like Brad Singleton and start giving him games. He needs to start playing games now. Singo learned a lot of lessons with us last year and probably, in fairness, he didn’t perform in most of the games at the level he should have done. But we knew it was being good for him and he was benefiting from it. What we are seeing now is Brad Singleton being one of our best players in the pack at the moment.
“He is coming off the bench and really doing a job for us. That is part of his development and part of his transition.”
McDermott stressed: “The actual definition of a transition is something that changes gradually, rather than the end of something and here’s the start of something else. Personally, I am duty bound to make sure the next cabs on the rank are good enough to take over from these fellas who are due to retire in the next coming years, or whenever.”
McDermott said stand-off Liam Sutcliffe, who played all of last week’s win over Wigan Warriors after captain Kevin Sinfield was ruled out due to a hamstring problem, is in a similar situation.
“If he doesn’t play at Catalans on Saturday it won’t be long before he’s in the team again, there’s no doubt about that,” McDermott said. “He is a good player. This is why you have got to have faith. When you put your young players in it is part of their development.
“That doesn’t mean to say you are going to win when you put them in. Some of their inexperience and some of their naivety at this level sometimes hurts you as a team, but then you have got to have a bit of faith and hold your nerve and say ‘well it has done him good’.
“If you handle it in the right manner afterwards and you go through the right processes they will improve, even though they might have had a shocker on the Friday night or whenever.”
McDermott added: “We started that process with Liam Sutcliffe in 2013, when he played a good boatload of games. That was mainly because of injury, but then we found out what a good player he is. Again, he played a good number of games in the 2014 season – after being out on loan at Bradford for a month – so we have invested into Liam.
“He is the type of person we invest in, because he’s not just a good player. He is a hard-working player as well. There’s areas of his game that only he can control and he is making sure he is getting on top of them. In moments like this, when Kev has an injury, it is good to know that you are putting somebody in who has earned his spot.
“You are putting somebody in who has worked hard enough to know he is going to be in reasonable form, rather than crossing your fingers and hoping he will do it.”