Leeds Rhinos' Jarrod O'Connor keen to turn tables on Super League leaders Catalans Dragons

This season has already surpassed Leeds Rhinos youngster Jarrod O’Connor’s expectations, but he reckons it can get better.

By Peter Smith
Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 4:45 am

The forward, who turns 20 next week, has been in or around Rhinos’ matchday squad all year and admits the campaign has “probably gone better than I’d expected”.

With Bodene Thompson and Rhyse Martin both suspended, O’Connor could make a third successive appearance when Rhinos visit Catalans Dragons in two days’ time.

“I have played quite a few games up to now, more than I thought I would,” O’Connor reflected. “But with 12 or 13 games still to go, I think I can get a few more, which will help me going into next year.”

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Jarrod O'Connor in action for Leeds against Wakefield. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

O’Connor made his debut last September and featured four times late in the 2020 campaign.

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Last Friday’s home defeat by Catalans was his seventh appearance this term and he admitted: “I was always going to aim for about 10, but I was expecting anywhere between five and 10.

“I am very happy I have played as many as I have, because the more games I am playing, the more experience I am getting and that will help me improve each week.”

O’Connor, who confirmed he has a year left on the contract signed when he joined Leeds from Widnes Vikings in 2019, added: “I am happy with my performances.

“Each time I step on the field I am learning something new and that’s always a bonus. I have had a few really good games this year and a few I could learn from, but that’s all part of getting better and the learning process.”

Loose-forward is O’Connor’s specialist role, but he has also featured at hooker and that versatility is a valuable tool in his locker.

“Speaking to Richard [Agar, Rhinos’ coach], it does help me get in the team a bit more,” he said.

“If we need someone on the bench who can cover multiple positions, that helps me get a spot over a few other lads who might only be able to play one position.

“And the more positions I play, the more skills I’ll have that I can get better at.

“That will help me when I play loose-forward, understanding the other roles around me.”

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Agar will today (Wednesday) name an initial 21-man squad for Friday’s rearranged game in Perpignan. Rhinos led 18-8 at half-time of last week’s meeting before running out of steam in the second period.

O’Connor said: “Everyone was gutted because we were in a good run of form, but Catalans have been battering the likes of Wigan and Saints over the past few weeks so to only get beaten by eight points, when that was some lads’ fifth game in two weeks, was a good effort.

“We might have run out of energy and lost our way a bit in the second half, but this week we have got a whole week to prepare. We’ve not had a proper training session, really, in the last couple of weeks, so if we get some sessions in, I reckon we have got a really good chance of winning this week.”

Thompson was handed a three-game penalty notice after the RFL match review panel charged him with a grade C dangerous throw and Martin was suspended for one match for grade B dangerous contact.

Catalans’ Joel Tomkins (grade B dangerous throw) and James Maloney (grade B dangerous contact) both received a two-match ban.

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