Talking Points – Kallum Watkins’ chances of success at Gold Coast Titans and Harry Newman’s BIG opportunity
LEEDS RHINOS’ 23-14 loss to Wigan Warriors was overshadowed by the news captain Kallum Watkins has signed for Gold Coast Titans and brought his departure forward to July 1. Here are five talking points.
1: Kallum Watkins can be another English success story in the NRL – A natural athlete, he has not regained his best form since a knee reconstruction last year, but when he does he will rip it up, even against the best defences in the world. It has been a tough year for him and Rhinos as a team, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact he has been one of Leeds’ true Super League greats and he will be missed.
2: Harry Newman has already stepped into Watkins’ boots in the right-centre – but there will be a vacancy for a new captain from the end of this month.
Long-term, if he can stay fit when he returns to the side, Stevie Ward is an obvious choice. Having not played since February, he doesn’t need extra pressure when he returns, but Aussie forward Trent Merrin has led by example and must be at the front of interim-coach Richard Agar’s thinking.
3: Watkins’ exit will free up salary cap space to bring in at least one new signing – It probably won’t be a centre, with Newman having that covered, but the Wigan defeat highlighted how badly Leeds need a play-maker and organiser with a good kicking game. They have been looking for next 2020 and Jackson Hastings, Luke Gale, Robert Lui and James Maloney are all possible targets.
However, it is so tight at the bottom they need to act now for this year, even if it means forking out for a transfer fee.
4: Rhinos’ performance are improving, particularly defensively, but aren’t scoring enough points – One positive, Ava Seumanufagai is beginning to look the part. The recent recruit runs strongly, lifts the players around him and has the makings of becoming an excellent import.
5: Supposedly, decisions even out during a season – in which case Rhinos are owed a few over the next 11 games. They are where they deserve to be, but the competition deserves better officiating.