Bodene Thompson: Leeds Rhinos makes team-first pledge - and explains his new look

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'Team -first' forward Bodene Thompson has pledged to fight for his spot in Leeds Rhinos’ 17 this year - and offered to play in the middle of the field if needed.

Along with Jack Broadbent, Alex Mellor, Jarrod O’Connor, Liam Tindall and Jack Sinfield, Thompson has featured in all Leeds’ three pre-season games so far.

The New Zealand-born back-rower was among the substitutes, for the third successive game, in the 30-12 win at Bradford Bulls two days ago.

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He was also one of the few experienced players to feature in the second half of the previous week’s victory over Featherstone Rovers.

Bodene Thompson in action agianst Bradford. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.Bodene Thompson in action agianst Bradford. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Bodene Thompson in action agianst Bradford. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Tom Holroyd suffered an ankle injury in that match which will keep him on the sidelines for up to 12 weeks and Thompson is a potential candidate to take over at prop during his layoff.

“I don’t know,” Thompson said when asked where he will be playing this year. “I have been playing in the middle, I did a 35-minute stint in the middle [against Bulls] and then a 15.

“It is just one of those things, we have got a really strong squad and I will be pushing and training hard to get my fitness up and making sure I am knocking at the door.

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“I will play anywhere; I am a team-first kind of guy, so whatever’s best for the team I will do.”

Rhinos have a final first team hit out this Sunday when Hull are the visitors for Tom Briscoe’s testimonial game. That comes 13 days before the home clash with one of Thompson’s former clubs, Warrington Wolves, in Betfred Super League round one.

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“Our team is looking sharp,” Thompson said. “We are definitely going to be up there; everyone’s pushing for spots, we have got 32 fit players at the moment and it’s really exciting - I can’t wait for round one.

“It is a big difference, this time last year we had 15 injuries or something. Now we’ve got competition for spots, training is really intense - the new trainer [Richard Hunwicks] has upped the game and everyone’s training as hard as they can.

“It [pre-season] has been good.”

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Rhinos’ positive build up continued against Bradford when they scored 30 unanswered points after trailing 12-0.

“The young kids stood up,” Thompson reflected. “Bradford have obviously got a big, experienced Championship side and we had a fairly young squad.

“The first half probably surprised us a little bit, we were a bit too lateral and we made a few errors.

“I made a couple of errors in the first half which wasn’t up to standard, but starting off the second half it was play direct, go down the middle and try and work over their big boys.

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“That’s something we didn’t do in the first half and I thought we did it well.”

Thompson joined Leeds, initially on a short-term deal, from Toronto Wolfpack after Super League’s coronavirus shutdown in 2020.

Cup tied from his time with the Canadian club, Thompson played alongside many of Rhinos’ youngsters when senior players were rested for big games on the road to Wembley.

It has been a similar story in the past two matches and the 33-year-old has had to strike a balance between being a mentor and helping the rookies with their game. He said: “Sometimes you forget about your own game a little bit, but I am just trying to balance that - make sure I am doing my role first.

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“In the first half [against Bulls] I dropped two balls - and I never drop balls, that’s something I pride myself on. In the second half I just made sure I did my job, carry the ball hard, don’t drop it and do the little things right.”

Thompson, now in the final season of his contract, is sporting a new look this year.

Explaining the reason behind his shaved head, he said: “It was receding anyway, so it had to come off.”

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