Zak Hardaker is worth the risk: Latest Leeds Rhinos talking points
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The 25-14 defeat of Toulouse Olympique ended a 50-day wait for Leeds’ second victory of the season, but came at a cost. Here are five talking points.
1: Bare bones. Injuries to Liam Sutcliffe and Tom Briscoe left Rhinos with only 16 of their 32-strong full-time squad fit and available when the final whistle blew against Toulouse. The two weeks between Friday’s game against Hull KR and Rhinos’ next fixture, at Salford Red Devils, will give the casualties valuable extra time to recover. The danger is, some might have to be rushed back this week, before they are really ready, to make up the numbers.
2: Lone arranger. Chief executive Gary Hetherington last week ruled out loan signings, but may be forced into a rethink. Unfortunately, at this stage of the season, straight after the Easter period, most clubs are in a similar situation so the options are limited, at best.
3: Worth the risk. However, there is one player available who ticks all the boxes in terms of quality and being able to play in positions where Rhinos are struggling, which is anywhere in the backs. Having been released by Wigan Warriors last week, Zak Hardaker is in search of a club and could be open to agreeing a short-term deal, not on huge money. Hardaker’s off-field issues are well known, but he is an outstanding player and tends to make a quick impact whenever he changes clubs. It wouldn’t be a universally popular signing, but is definitely worth the gamble.
4: Coach trip. New boss Rohan Smith is still in Australia awaiting his work visa. How long that takes will determine when he arrives, but assuming it happens quickly, the Challenge Cup break will be ideal timing, giving him two weeks to work with the squad before Leeds travel to Salford, where they have a point to prove, on May 15.
5: JJB. Whether or not last Friday was his final game as interim-coach, Jamie Jones-Buchanan has done a good job during his sort spell in charge. A win and a draw from five games isn’t spectacular, but there is no doubt performances – and most notably spirit in the side – have improved and progress is being made, giving Smith a base to build on.