Luke Gale column - Leeds Rhinos have plenty to get excited about this year
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I said this time last year we were a work in progress and I think we still are, but honestly, I can see us going from strength to strength.
From a team point of view, I can imagine it has felt like a long off-season, from the start of January to end of March, but the boys who have been training have looked really good.
There was a lot of speculation over when the season would start and it has changed at least once, so it’s good that is all sorted now and there’s some rugby just around the corner.
That makes this the business end of pre-season now and the target all the boys want to get to.
Things have gone well for us, apart from injuries. I would have loved to have been involved all the way through - honestly - but tearing my pec’ in the first training session, back in January, was a spanner in the works.
The good news is, my recovery is going well. It has all been really positive, I haven’t had any hic-ups and I am hopeful of being available for round one.
I’ve been drip feeding into training for the past couple of weeks and I feel sharp and good.
We’ve had some new additions since the end of last season, who I think fans should be excited about.
Kyle Eastmond has trained really well in the short time since he joined us and by now he has had a bit of time to get used to how we play and start building some combinations.
He has been out of the game a while, but he’s a talented player and once he gets his feet back under the table, he’ll be a real asset.
I actually played England under-18s with Kyle. He played a year above himself and we had a bit of a joke about that when he first came in.
I think it will take a bit of time for him to adjust back to rugby league, he will admit that, but it is the game he grew up playing and if his first few sessions are anything to go by, he will have no trouble fitting in.
He looks sharp, he looks a threat and he will bring a different dynamic to the team and add a lot of talent.
Zane Tetevano and King Vuniyayawa have both been great and they have shored up our engine room.
Zane brings a great dynamic to the team; he is a quality asset just the way he trains and goes about his business.
He adds a lot of strength to our forwards and will be a leader in our pack. He is just the signing we need, I think.
King has settled in well, we have got Matt Prior back now and things are building nicely.
It is no secret we’ve had an interrupted pre-season, with injuries and Covid, but it is coming good at the right time.
The Grand Final is not won in March and what happens in the first few rounds won’t determine the outcome. We will look to build steadily and I am confident we’ll have a good year.
We have got competition for places and whatever club I have been at throughout my career, at whatever level, that has been massive.
Having said that, Rob Lui ‘s injury, two months into pre-season, was really disappointing and the same for Jack Walker.
I’ve been there and I know how they will be feeling. For Rob, it is the last year of his contract and I know how much he wanted to have a big season, but there’s still time to do that.
He is working hard and for Jack, it is a tough one, but he is a young lad and knowing him as I do, I’ve no doubt he will bounce back.
He has had a couple of tough seasons, but he is young enough, good enough and strong enough and he’ll be back even better next year.
Looking around the comp’ most teams have strengthened, but I think St Helens and Wigan remain the benchmark and the Grand Final last year showed where every other side has to get to.
It will be interesting to see how everyone goes and I can’t wait to get started.
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