Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves: Blake Austin is ruled out so what are coach Richard Agar's half-back options for Super League round one?

Absolutely the last thing Leeds Rhinos wanted for Betfred Super League round one was to lose one of their half-backs, so what are coach Richard Agar’s options now?

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 9:16 am

Rhinos will face Warrington Wolves on Saturday without stand-off Blake Austin, who has been suspended for one game following a yellow card in Tom Briscoe’s testimonial game against Hull a week and a half ago.

The ban deprives Rhinos of one of their key players, as well as denying him a debut against his previous club, which would have created extra interest in the first Super League game to be broadcast live on Channel 4.

The fact it took the match review panel eight days to charge Austin left Leeds with only limited time to come up with a contingency plan, but that sort of scenario is a regular occurrence during the season and Agar does have alternatives.

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Blake Austin, left, with Jack Walker. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

One of his pre-season posers has been how to fit both Jack Walker, Rhinos’ first-choice full-back and Richie Myler, who has done such a good job standing in for the past two years, into the same 17.

Walker, who did not play at all last year, could start at number one, with Myler moving into the halves alongside Aidan Sezer.

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Alternatively, Liam Sutcliffe has no shortage of experience at stand-off and could step in this weekend.

Richie Myler could switch into the halves. Picture by Tony Johnson.

That might depend on the fitness of centre Harry Newman, who suffered a hamstring strain against Hull.

If Newman is ruled out, Rhinos will probably need Sutcliffe in the centres, though the versatile Jack Broadbent is another option.

A more left field choice would be for Kruise Leeming, who did a fine job as an emergency half last year, to partner Sezer, with Brad Dwyer starting at hooker and Corey Johnson, a youngster Agar rates very highly, taking a place on the bench.

So, with most of their squad fit and available, Austin’s availability is a setback rather than a crisis.

Liam Sutcliffe is another half-back option. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

It is also the sort of situation clubs will have to get used to this year as the RFL cracks down on late tackles - which was Austin’s offence - and any foul play aimed at an opponent’s head.

In past years Austin would probably have faced, at worst, a grade A charge and no ban. This season players sitting games out over what appear to be relatively innocuous incidents could become a regular occurrence.