Our YEP Jury have their say on Leeds Rhinos’ home clash with Salford Red Devils.
The conditioning and fitness staff must have thought 2016 could not have started off any worse than it did.
Little did they know that it would be almost eight months before the training facilities would be back in use at Kirkstall and in that time Rhinos would have slumped to the bottom of Super League.
With injuries, and the departure mid-season of some first-team players it has been an eventful season. But through it all the support from the terraces has been unequivocal. Even as the club at the bottom of the pile we were attracting crowds far larger than most of the top-four teams.
Personally speaking, I was happy that the Leeds board held their nerve and retained faith in Brian McDermott. It would have been so much easier to sack the man at the top and lay the blame at his feet.
I am not saying that he is faultless in the team’s performances, but with no obvious replacement I think Leeds have weathered the storm far better with him in charge than with a new coach.
The team look comfortable at the top of the Qualifiers League and so we must start to look and plan for the 2017 season. My number one priority would be to find a new captain.
I think Danny McGuire has been an instrumental player in the team’s past success and providing he can stay fit I see no reason why he cannot continue to play a pivotal role; but as in so many other sports, the burden of captaincy seems to have sucked away his creative play.
Looking at the current squad there seems to be no natural leader in place.
I believe leaders are born and perhaps Mr Hetherington needs to put a new captain on his Christmas list.
Mitch Garbutt is a much improved player to last season, Brad Singleton is developing well and even Keith Galloway seems to be playing better since the arrival of Segeyaro, but Leeds have looked fragile in central defence for most of the season and this is an area we must look to improve on going into 2017 or we will not be in contention for any silverware.
2016 was always going to be a building year, but we need to make sure lessons are learned and not repeated into 2017.
Tomorrow night is the biggest game for us in the middle-eights. Victory will virtually seal Super League survival with three games to go.
The week off could be the blessing in disguise that Salford really needed, seeing as they are the most likely team to get relegated from Super League in my opinion.
Salford have some very good players like Michael Dobson and Mason Caton-Brown looks a threat on the wing. I just hope our injuries don’t hamper us and we get the victory.
I have a feeling that if Salford do get relegated then they will go bust as I can see Marwan Koukash giving up on the club.
I would not risk Stevie Ward for this game and let him make his return next week at home to Batley.
It was a strange feeling not to be at Wembley seeing us contending for another Challenge Cup last Saturday. I was delighted to see Gareth Ellis finally win the Challenge Cup after winning two Grand Finals with us.
Danny Houghton should have got the Lance Todd trophy in my opinion ahead of Marc Sneyd. If James Segeyaro goes back in NRL I would take Houghton.
RIP Harry Jepson OBE another stalwart of the club who has been there much longer than I have been a supporter of the blue and amber.
Following last week’s fantastic Challenge Cup Final it’s back to reality as Leeds face Salford tomorrow night.
Salford are in dire need of a victory as another loss puts them in contention for immediate relegation or the Million Pound Game – whilst a victory for Leeds would likely secure their place in Super League next year. Again it is difficult to see past a victory for Leeds; comparing the two teams man for man you could only predict a Leeds victory. Although Salford have beaten Leeds this year, they haven’t scored a point against the Rhinos at Headingley for over 120 minutes and as Danny Houghton showed last week at Wembley, it is defence that wins tight matches.
I’ll predict a Leeds victory by 30 points.
KATIE BURROWS What a result for Hull on Saturday; a tense game and a great advertisement for rugby league. Hopefully the week off won’t have a negative impact on us and we’ll continue our great run by picking up another two points tomorrow night. Salford arguably need the win more than we do, so it should an intense affair.
Back to it for Leeds this weekend after a great Challenge Cup final, congratulations to Hull FC for a great victory!
Elsewhere, it was great to see Sir Kevin Sinfield appointed as a director at the Rugby Football League, definitely what the game needs!
As for the weekend ahead, an eager Salford Red Devils side come to Headingley, looking to right the wrongs of their loss to Leigh which could make them Million Pound Match candidates.
Leeds will need to stay focused and just get over the line the way they did when Salford last visited Headingley back in June in order to edge ever closer to securing safety. I think back-to-back home victories for Leeds will now see us safe.
Enjoy the game.
It’s back to business tomorrow night against Salford. The two previous meetings have been attritional games played in poor weather conditions. Hopefully a dry day will see fast flowing rugby. Salford will be desperate for a win following their start and we can all but seal our place in next year’s Super League.