WATCH: Time to restore Leeds Rhinos to Super League’s top table - Liam Sutcliffe
GRAND Final winner Liam Sutcliffe says it is time to make Leeds Rhinos great again.
The versatile homegrown talent has only just turned 25 but is now one of the club’s more experienced players after a raft of departures in recent seasons.
He made his debut in 2012, when Leeds finished as champions for the fifth time in just six years.
However, since the treble-winning campaign of 2015, Rhinos have been embroiled in relegation fights every year apart from 2017 when – with Sutcliffe at centre – they claimed a record-extending eighth Super League title.
Leeds diced with the drop at times last season before recovering under new head coach Richard Agar and Sutcliffe admits they must now return to the standards that set them out as the competition’s leading light.
“Hopefully we can get up to the right end of the table in 2020,” said the England international.
“I think we need to; a club like Leeds shouldn’t be at the bottom fighting relegation.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of history in terms of winning trophies and that’s where we all want to be with this group of players.
“We have got a few lads who have won trophies in this team and we know what it feels like.
“So hopefully we can get Leads back to where they should be.”
Sutcliffe, who for so long waited in the wings behind the likes of Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire, does now feel like he is one of the older heads at Emerald Headingley.
“Obviously I’ve been around the first team a fair few years,” he added.
“Even though I’m still only 25 I do feel like I have been here forever. And I have got a fair bit of experience in these last few years, especially of those relegation battles. But with winning a couple of trophies in there as well we just want to get back up to where we know we can be.”
Where Sutcliffe fits in in Agar’s plans remains to be seen; originally a stand-off when he came through the Academy ranks, he spent much of last season in the back-row and, once more, showed his utility value by playing centre as well.
Many people see him as someone with all the obvious attributes to make a No13.
The player himself simply says he hopes to finally concentrate on one position when the new season kicks-off in February.
“Me and Rich will have a few conversations leading up to the games and leading up to the season and we’ll go from there,” said Sutcliffe.
“Hopefully I can nail down a position this year and really have a good say on the season.
“Whatever, we’ll come up with something together and go from there.”
Sutcliffe – who made his England debut against France last year – has been impressed with Rhinos’ recruitment including Luke Gale and Kruise Leeming.
“We’ve made some really good signings especially in key areas like hooker and half-back,” he added. “So, hopefully, we’ll have a good season with those guys here.”
It is now less than a fortnight until Rhinos kick-off their pre-season friendlies with the Boxing Day game against Wakefield Trinity at Headingley.
Sutcliffe explained: “It’s always good getting back in and getting some training under everyone’s belts. But I think everyone’s just a bit bored of having training through the week and no game at the end of it.
“So I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to these games coming around.”
Although numerous players have left since Sinfield came in as director of rugby 18 months ago, Sutcliffe – contracted until the end of 2021 – says he has never come close to moving.
He said: “I’ve always been here.
“A lot has changed, in terms of coach and stuff like that but I’ve always got on well with Kev and have always been pretty honest and close to him so it has been good to stay around.”