Leeds Rhinos: From Luke Gale's exit to Jack Sinfield's debut - the six biggest stories of 2021

Leeds Rhinos were never far from the headlines during 2021.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 30th December 2021, 12:55 pm

Here is the Yorkshire Evening Post’s choice of the six most significant Rhinos stories during a dramatic - and at times turbulent - year.

1: Gale blow. Rhinos captain Luke Gale had a nightmare 2021, suffering a torn pectoral muscle in his first pre-season training session, breaking a thumb two games into the year and having his season ended by a knee injury in August. He was also suspended twice. In July the captaincy was removed following a falling out with coach Richard Agar and four months later the scrum-half was released from the final year of his contract, to join Hull.

2: Injuries. Gale’s damaged pec’ was just the start of a year of fitness woe, which also included two significant Covid outbreaks. At times Leeds were missing a dozen first-choice players and forwards Cameron Smith and Rhyse Martin were in the halves when they lost a Challenge Cup tie at St Helens in April.

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Luke Gale was stripped of Rhinos' captaincy in July and signed for Hull in the off-season. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

3: Star signings. In terms of experience and quality, bringing in half-backs Blake Austin (from Warrington Wolves) and Aidan Sezer (Huddersfield Giants), second-row James Bentley (St Helens) and winger David Fusitu’a (New Zealand Warriors) was Rhinos’ biggest recruitment spree of this century.

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4: Wheel class. Rhinos’ wheelchair side were all-conquering, retaining the Betfred Challenge Cup in August, finishing top of the Super League table and completing an historic unbeaten season with victory in September’s Grand Final.

5: Eastmond move goes west. In March, Rhinos brought dual-code international Kyle Eastmond back to rugby league on a two-year contract. The ex-St Helens half-back played for them just twice - in defeats by Wigan Warriors and Hull KR - before retiring two months later. Announcing the decision to hang up his boots, 31-year-old Eastmond admitted: “I’ve come to realise the passion to influence the game is no longer on the field.”

Aidan Sezer, with ball, is a big-name signing for Rhinos. Picture by Steve Riding.

6: One out, one in. At the end of July Kevin Sinfield left his role as Rhinos’ director of rugby to become an assistant-coach at Leicester Tigers rugby union club. Days later Rhinos confirmed his scrum-half son Jack, now 17, had signed his first professional contract.

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Kyle Eastmond in action against Hull KR, the second and final game of his Rhinos career. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.