Morgan Gannon: Leeds Rhinos' England Knights star pledges to handle 'pressure' in second Super League season

Hot prospect Morgan Gannon is feeling confident, but far from complacent, as he looks ahead to his second season in Leeds Rhinos’ senior squad.

Friday, 7th January 2022, 4:45 am

Gannon, who turned 18 in December, played 13 first team games last year, six of them in the starting side and was capped by England Knights against Jamaica at the end of the campaign.

That confirmed the second-rower’s status as one of the most exciting emerging talents in the European game and capped a remarkable rise for a player fresh out of youth rugby.

With former Grand Final winner James Bentley now in the squad and Rhinos currently almost injury-free, Gannon faces an even tougher battle for a place in the team this year.

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Morgan Gannon in pre-season training with Rhinos. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

But the Halifax-born teenager has impressed Rhinos’ coaching staff with his level-headed attitude and is backing himself to continue his upward trajectory.

“Obviously this time last year I hadn’t played any games and it was my first time being around everyone,” Gannon recalled.

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“That took some getting used to, but this year I’ve had some games under my belt and I’m a lot more confident in my ability.

“It is sort of a different one this year, because I had no pressure last year.

“I had not played and I was just training; now I have played there is more pressure.

“This year it is good to have that, so I am wanting to rise to that pressure and see what I can do and push on from last year.”

So-called ‘second season syndrome’, where a player fails to build on a breakthrough year, is something Gannon is aware of and determined to avoid.

“I just want to continue that development and momentum,” he vowed.

“I want to keep developing and keep wanting to learn.

“Obviously I am nowhere near the finished article yet, so there’s a lot to learn and I am still really keen to be doing that.”

Gannon plays in arguably the most fiercely contested position in Rhinos’ squad and - despite moving up 10 places on the list - has some quality players ahead of him.

He added: “James Bentley has come in and there’s some more competition, but I’ve not really set a target for games [he wants to play this year].

“There’s obviously other factors like injuries and things like that so I am just really focused on trying to make the team every week.

“As long as I am fit I want to be pushing, or at least in the conversation, to be playing every week. I think that’s more the focus, as opposed to number of games.”

The security of a long-term contract - he is committed to Rhinos until the end of 2024 - means Gannon doesn’t have to stress over his immediate future.

“It is one less thing to have to worry about,” he said.

“I can be a lot more relaxed and comfortable, but by the same token I still need to be pushing myself and not get comfortable, thinking ‘I’ve got three years left’.

“I want to keep progressing, rather than sit back and think it’s all good.”

Rhinos are now more than half way through pre-season and Gannon reckons the signs are positive for the new campaign, which kicks off at home to Warrington Wolves on Saturday, February 12.

“It has been good,” he said of pre-season so far.

“We have got a few changes, with players and staff and it has been really positive, everyone’s really enjoying it.

“We are happy with how we’ve built from day one up to now.”

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