Leeds Rhinos: Sutcliffe comes of age in rise up rankings

Liam Sutcliffe
Liam Sutcliffe
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BIRTHDAY BOY Liam Sutcliffe is celebrating being promoted in Leeds Rhinos’ pecking order.

The stand-off or loose-forward, who turned 21 today, will wear the No 14 jersey in 2016.

Sutcliffe made 11 starts and four substitute appearances this year – scoring six tries and 25 goals – before undergoing surgery to repair an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury.

In total, the Hunslet Warriors product, who wore No 18 last term, has played 59 senior games since his debut in 2013.

His impressive form in the early part of the campaign saw him preferred to captain Kevin Sinfield in the stand-off role for a spell before his season-ending injury.

Sutcliffe, who has not played since July, began pre-season training on Monday and is on course to be available for the start of the new season in February.

Rhinos’ previous No 14, Stevie Ward, has been handed Sinfield’s former number, 13.

Also moving up the squad list is prop Brad Singleton, who has been promoted from No 19 to No 16.

Singleton, 23, has been in the senior squad since 2011, but cemented his place this year when he featured in all but two of Rhinos’ 36 competitive games.

He was a try-scorer in the Challenge Cup final win over Hull KR and also played in Leeds’ Grand Final success against Wigan Warriors and the victory at Huddersfield Giants which clinched the league leaders’ shield.

In total, Singleton – who is from Barrow – has made 75 competitive appearances for Leeds, scoring 11 tries.

Rhinos coach Brian McDermott said the duo have been rewarded for their form in 2015.

“Both Brad and Liam showed their outstanding potential last season,” he said. “Brad has been around the first-team squad throughout my time here, however last season he really grasped his opportunity and this is a reward for those efforts.”

Of Sutcliffe, McDermott added: “Liam had a great start to 2015 and was unfortunate to suffer a season-ending injury.

“However, his attitude and application since then has been outstanding and he remained a key part of our squad with his positive attitude supporting the squad in the second half of the season. He has worked hard with our medical team and I am sure he will come back more determined than ever to succeed.”

Rhinos’ final squad numbers are set to be confirmed by the end of this week.

Meanwhile, Ryan Bailey – who had spells at Hull KR and Castleford Tigers after being released by Rhinos a year ago – has joined Warrington Wolves on a one-year deal. The move reunites Bailey with former Rhinos coach Tony Smith, who was in charge when he won the first of his six Grand Final rings, in 2004. Bailey said: “It is no secret that in the past I have had some issues, but all that is now behind me. I had some of my best form under Tony. I think he knows how to get the best out of me.” Bailey’s competitive debut could be in Warrington’s Super League opener at Leeds on February 4.