Video - Richard Agar impressed with Leeds Rhinos’ teamwork in their victory over Wakefield Trinity
INDIVIDUALS IMPRESSED, but boss Richard Agar was happier about seeing Leeds Rhinos gel as a team in their big Boxing Day win over Wakefield Trinity.
Luke Gale and Stevie Ward, in particular, caught the eye for Leeds as they retained the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge trophy with a 30-4 success.
Agar sent out a strong 19-man squad – though new signings Kruise Leeming and Alex Mellor were missing through injury – and was “really pleased” with Rhinos’ first pre-season hit-out.
“We talked before the game about looking like a team,” Agar said.
“In the first game, first impressions are really important and we didn’t want those first impressions to be about any particular individual wanting to stand out and do his own thing.
“We thought it important we did it collectively and tried to work on some of the things we have been practising.
“We knew we definitely would not be the finished article and there’s lots we can brush up on, but I thought collectively we worked hard for each other.”
Agar enthused: “Defensively we looked pretty solid and we scrambled well when we had to.
“The result is sometimes insignificant, it’s what we can take out of the performance to build on and see where we are at.
“At this stage of the year you practise against each other, so to practise against different opposition doing different things was a good exercise.”
Gale, who has joined Leeds from Castleford Tigers, shone in his comeback after missing the entire 2019 season due to a ruptured Achilles.
He played all but the final 15 minutes and Agar said: “He could have done the 80 with his eyes shut, really.
“We took him off to get other players back on and have a look at a couple of different combinations, but Luke looked really good considering he had had two years off.
“We trained in a slightly different way this year and stayed away from a lot of the team-on-team stuff.
“I am confident we have smart enough players that when we do that it will sink in pretty quickly.
“We have had a couple of weeks of it now and I thought we looked okay.”
The fixture was Leeds’ first since news broke, exactly a week earlier, that former player and current reserve team coach Rob Burrow has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
That cast a shadow over Leeds’ Christmas, but Agar insisted everyone at the club has been lifted by the wave of support for Burrow.
Online donations to a fund to help Burrow and his family had reached almost £200,000 by this afternoon.
‘It has been a huge shock to everyone,” Agar said.
“He has been a focal point of our camp [and] there was a lot of upset when we got the news, but we hope it has a galvanising effect on the club as a whole.”
He added: “Some of the things I have witnessed and seen over the last week – I have had different rugby league clubs, pubs, clubs ringing me up that have no connection with Leeds Rhinos, but they are good people wanting to contribute to the efforts.
“Someone knocked on my father’s door on Christmas Eve with £150 they had collected in the pub that afternoon.
“It has been overwhelming the response.”
Rhinos came through the win over Wakefield with no major new injury concerns, though stand-off Rob Lui was rested at half-time as a precaution.
“He tweaked a bit of a medial ligament very early doors,” Agar said.
“It’s nothing too major, but it led to him cramping up a little bit in the first half.
“With Richie [Myler] sat on the bench, we didn’t think we needed to take any risks.”