Liam Sutcliffe happy to revert back to favoured centre role at Leeds Rhinos
VERSATILE LIAM Sutcliffe has spoken about his recovery from coronavirus, delight at a return to the centres and confidence Leeds Rhinos can upset Betfred Super League leaders Catalans Dragons today.
The 26-18 loss to Catalans seven days ago was the 26-year-old’s third game back in the team following a bout of Covid.
Sutcliffe played at centre for the first time this season and admitted: “It was good to get back there.”
But with injuries and coronavirus still having an impact on Rhinos’ season, Sutcliffe acknowledges that players have to be willing to adapt.
“That’s the position I want to play in,” Sutcliffe said of the centre role.
“I wasn’t actually due to play there; I only got the phone call at midday on Friday.
“I was due to be starting at half-back, but with Ash [Handley] having to come out of the game I got the call to say I’d be playing at centre and I was more than happy to go back there.”
Sutcliffe had been full-back against Warrington Wolves four days earlier but has spent much of this season in the halves.
Rhinos’ six and seven, Rob Lui and Luke Gale, have yet to play together in 2021 and the former is not included in the squad for this evening’s rematch against Catalans in Perpignan.
With Harry Newman back in full training after his broken leg – and named in the 21 – Sutcliffe is an option to partner Gale, though Callum McLelland is also in contention and Kruise Leeming has done a good job as a half-back in recent games.
Sutcliffe described his form in the halves this term as “not too bad, just steady really”.
He confirmed: “I do want to get back to centre at some point, but it has been a bit of a crazy year with injuries and Covid so this kind of thing can’t be helped.”
Sutcliffe was one of the players who contracted the virus, leading to two games – including last month’s scheduled trip to Catalans – being postponed.
Zane Tetevano has yet to return to the team, but Sutcliffe reported: “I don’t think I was too bad with the after-effects of it.
“The first three days of actually having it were my worst days, just getting pretty much every symptom.
“After that it kind of settled down and I don’t feel too bad now.
“I still haven’t got my sense of smell back, but other than that, I am all right.”
Rhinos have had a full week to prepare for today’s game, which was a luxury after four matches in 13 days. Sutcliffe recalled: “The last couple of weeks we’ve literally just had to recover, have a quick training session the day before a game and play again, so it has been a bit of a hectic couple of weeks, especially for the boys who played in the England-Combined Nations game as well.
“I am sure they’ll be glad to have had a normal turnaround.”
Catalans’ victory last week was their eighth in succession, setting a new club record. Visiting Perpignan is always a tough challenge, but Sutcliffe reckons Rhinos – who led 18-8 at the break seven days ago – can travel with confidence.
“Coming into half-time everyone was really confident we could go on and get the win,” he said.
“They showed how good they were in the second half and I don’t think we spent much time in their half, which was pretty disappointing,
“But we can take some confidence out of the game and, hopefully, put in a good performance.”
He added: “We had a bit of a disappointing patch at the start of the season, but we knew as soon as we started to click it would come good. I feel like in the last few weeks we have started to click in attack and we have been pretty good with the ball.
“We are confident in where we can be and that we’ll be in there at the end of the year.
“We are getting some people back and they’ve probably come back at a good time but, hopefully, we can keep everyone fit and we can actually see what we can do with a full squad.
“People have had to dot about here, there and everywhere in the first half of the season and, hopefully, we can get everyone back. There’ll be a few tough decisions for Rich [Agar] but, hopefully, we’ll see how we go with that.”
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