RECORD-BREAKING FORWARD Carl Ablett says he has been “reinvigorated” by changes at Leeds Rhinos.
Ablett, the only player to have won seven Super League Grand Finals without tasting defeat at Old Trafford, has signed a new contract which will keep him at Leeds until the end of 2020.
The 32-year-old had been considering emigrating to Australia, to pursue his trade as a plumber and play lower-grade rugby, but former team-mate Kevin Sinfield’s return to the club as director of rugby prompted a change of heart.
Ablett began pre-season training, under new coach Dave Furner, on Monday.
“I did a lot of thinking towards the back end of the season,” he said.
“I sat down with Kev and had a good discussion and a really good chat about it.
“A two-year deal was on offer and I am a Leeds lad, I love the club and it would be great to finish my career here. I am looking forward to the next three years.
“Coming in on Monday for the first day it was fresh. I have been here a long time and been under Mac [previous boss Brian McDermott] most of that time. I think the changes that have been made have freshened the whole place up and reinvigorated me and I am really looking forward to the season.”
Ablett made his debut in 2004 and had a spell on loan at London Broncos the following year, but has otherwise spent his entire career at his home-city club, scoring 80 tries in 323 appearances and being named in a new leadership group last term.
But he said: “As you get older you need to consider family life and make sure it’s right for everybody. Kev outlined the plans, what role he sees for me and the way he thinks I can still contribute and that’s something I want to be part of.
“I love the club and want to be a part of making it great again and putting last season behind us.”
Despite his comments about ending his career with Leeds, Ablett insisted he has not yet decided if he will retire at the end of his latest deal.
“It will take me to 34,” he pointed out. “At 32 I still feel pretty good physically.
“When you get to this age you take it season by season.
“I’ll make no decisions right now, but if I do end in two years I will end it looking back with fond memories of a great career at a great club. I have been living the dream for the last 20 years so I’ll make that decision closer to the time.”
Ablett is confident Rhinos are in for a better season next year after their fight against relegation in 2018. He stressed: “I’m not going to scream and shout we are going to turn into champions.
“Obviously we are in a bit of a transition, we’ve got a few new members of staff and a few other changes at the club.
“It is really exciting. I’ve had a chat with Dave and a few of the coaches about the changes he is making and just hearing that different voice and those different ideas invigorates you a bit and gets you thinking about the game. I am really excited.”
Furner played for Rhinos in 2003 and 2004, hanging up his boots after their first Grand Final win. Ablett said: “He’s a good coach and an experienced bloke.
“I was just coming through when he played here and back then you could tell he was a real leader and he set some high standards. He has come in here and already you can see he is having an impact. He will be great for the squad and for the younger lads.”
New signing Tuimoala Lolohea was due to arrive today with fellow recruit Konrad Hurrell touching down on November 30. Leeds’ other import Trent Merrin will be booked on a flight once paperwork is completed next week.
Meanwhile, full-back/scrum-half Reece Chapman-Smith, who was a member of the Rhinos academy team which reached this year’s under-19s Grand Final, has joined Betfred Championship club Halifax.