EXPERIENCED LEADER Brett Ferres has been pinpointed as a “pivotal” figure for Leeds Rhinos this year, by coach Dave Furner.
Rhinos have lost their opening two games and are bottom of Betfred Super League, but Ferres’ form has been a shining light.
After being plagued by injuries during his previous three seasons at Leeds, the former England back-rower – who scored a try in last week’s defeat at Wigan Warriors – is now fully fit and set for a big year, Furner reckons.
“He is very pivotal in this team,” said the coach.
“He’s not only playing some very good football, but he is one of our leaders.
“He has a lot of experience and has a lot of respect among his peers in the team.
“I am happy for Fez.
“Before I arrived here I was a big fan of Brett Ferres and the way he plays and he has got a really good attitude of leading this team.”
Furner also confirmed he is pleased with the impact being made by marquee forward Trent Merrin. He said the Australian has “jumped straight in” to the English style of rugby and stressed: “I am very happy where Trent is – and where a lot of players are.
“We have been working hard trying to get those connections and Trent is only going to get better and push the team, individually and as a squad, to get better.”
Leeds’ new half-back pairing of Tui Lolohea and Richie Myler has come under the spotlight during the back-to-back losses at Warrington Wolves and Wigan.
Asked how he feels they are doing, Furner insisted: “Better.
“Not only that, but you have to think about the nine, six, seven and one. The longest-serving player in those positions is going on three years. I don’t hold that as an excuse, but they are working hard to get that connection. It is one thing doing it at training and another when there’s points on the line. I have got a lot of faith in how they’ve been working, the spine and the whole team, to produce some really good football.”
Rhinos face another tough challenge on Sunday at table-topping Salford Red Devils, but Furner is going into it in upbeat mood.
“What I did like about last week was they never stopped trying, effort-wise, for the 80 minutes,” he said of the defeat at Wigan eight days ago.
“Salford have two wins on the board and they’ll obviously be confident, but as a team we need to take confidence out of the areas we did very well against Wigan and sustain those for longer.
“Salford have got some really good threats there and they’ve shown a lot of confidence in the way they are going to play, but for us it’s about the way we need to play to combat that.
“Our whole squad are trying hard and we want to get our first win, but we know we need to play the way we’ve been training and sustain those periods a lot longer in games and if we get opportunities we need to take them.”
He added: “We’ve talked about that and the players certainly are keen for the opportunity to grab the two points. Our training sessions have been high intensity with some very good execution.
“We are getting better each week and I can only imagine that is going to transfer on to the field.”
Furner confirmed he has spoken to referees’ boss Steve Ganson about some decisions which went against Rhinos last week, but stressed their focus is on “where we can improve”.