Leeds Rhinos: Trials and tribulations of 2016 will make us a stronger team – Ablett

Ryan Hall , Stevie Ward, Carl Ablett and Adam Cuthbertson.
Ryan Hall , Stevie Ward, Carl Ablett and Adam Cuthbertson.
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THERE’S A saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Hopefully that will be the case for us after a really disappointing year.

When the season began we were confident in our squad, but things went against us from the start and, to be honest, we didn’t handle adversity as well as we should have done.

I’m not going to go over old ground – about the effect losing Kirkstall had on us and all the injuries we’ve suffered – but they did have a bearing.

On top of that, it has been a really competitive season. We’re not the only club to have had long losing and winning runs.

Hull and Warrington have been pretty consistent, but everyone else has had their ups and downs.

We had a really tough first two-thirds of the year, but even then we lost quite a few games on kicks or by a handful of points and if the result had gone the other way things could have been very different.

But we are a club that is used to being up at the top of the table, reaching finals and winning trophies, so to finish ninth was not good enough.

We didn’t play at the level we are capable of and we have to take that on the chin. It is not easy taking positives from a season like this one, but I think the young lads who have come in showed they are up to the job.

It’s a lot easier coming into a team that’s winning, but they didn’t let anybody down and they will all be better for the experience.

I was pleased when Rob Burrow got our player of the year award last week and I think he was the right choice.

It has been a difficult season for Rob, who has played at hooker for the past few years and had to convert back to scrum-half and take the captaincy for a lot of the time as well.

I think he has come out of the season well, as has Jordan Lilley. He has shown, in glimpses, he could have a really big future.

He has been inconsistent at times, but that’s what you get with young players. At 20 he has got quite a few first team games under his belt and he will learn from the tough experiences this year.

I also think Liam Sutcliffe has been great. It was hard for him at the start of the year, coming back from a knee reconstruction as first-choice stand-off.

He is more of a runner than an organising half and there was a lot of responsibility on him, especially playing alongside a rookie in Jordan Lilley.

He had some tough times, but he got through it and showed up really well when he moved to full-back towards the end of the season.

I don’t know what the long-term plan is for him, but he is a good player and he is only going to get better.

Finishing top of the middle-eights wasn’t much of a consolation, but I think there were things to build on over the final third of the year.

We won 11 out of our last 13 and the big thing for us is we found a formula that works in defence. We conceded too many points in the middle of the year, but we changed a few things and that paid off.

We’ve had a good review this week – the players have had their say and so have the coaching staff and the chief executive – and we are confident we will be a lot better next year.

Chico – that’s James Segeyaro – has given us a new dimension. Our offense still isn’t where it needs to be and I expect we will be working hard on that in pre-season, but if we can attack better and defend like we did at the end of the year, I think we will be okay.

We’re into the off-season now, so it’s a chance to have a break and a holiday away with the family but we will be back into weights and conditioning work in a few weeks’ time and pre-season begins at the start of November.

That’s a lot earlier than normal for most of us, which should help next year. Thanks for all your support this season and I’ll see you on Boxing Day!