Leeds Rhinos started the day off with the major announcement that they’d landed both Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers in deals from Salford Red Devils, with the pair set to spearhead their new-look spine for 2024.
The signings of Croft and Ackers highlight the intent of the Rhinos to once again return to the top table following a disappointing season in which they finished just eighth, only a season removed from having made the Grand Final.
In Croft they recruit a former Man of Steel winner who is coming into his prime aged just 26, whilst Ackers is a fully fledged England international who will offer experience and calm from the hooker role and is in his prime aged 29.
The pair signed on three year contracts and Chief Executive Gary Hetherington has now taken to the Rhinos Youtube Channel to detail the reasons behind the signings.
Hetherington explained: “Well it’s been a long and exhaustive search for new players, in Australia, New Zealand and here at home. And we’re delighted to capture these two players. I think it’s the first time that we’ve actually done two together. It represents a huge investment for the club and a big signing as well. I look forward to the Rhinos fans in 2024, which really needs to be a big season for all concerned.”
He confirmed that it was the biggest sole investment in player recruitment since the days of signing Iestyn Harris, way back when Super League was still in it’s infancy.
“That was a big investment and Iestyn came and made a difference; and I’m sure that both Andy and Brodie will come and make a difference as well because apart from being outstanding players, they’re two quality individuals as well that will bring experience and leadership to the squad as well.
“In fact all the players that’s joining the squad for next season will bring those qualities. They’re all good players but they’re bringing outstanding organisational skills, experience and leadership qualities as well. I think the squad that Rohan is putting together for next season is a very exciting one.”
With Croft and Ackers joining they’ll form one half of the spine however the Rhinos have already recruited two spine players from the NRL with full-back Lachlan Miller and half-back Matt Frawley already having joined.
As such Leeds will have a totally new-look spine, something that Hetherington was keen to highlight and even more keen to see.
“I think we obviously were disappointed with the season that we just had,” he explained.
“It was always going to be a tricky season, I think with 11 players coming out of the contract at the start of it; but next season will be a very different look about it. It will be a much more stable squad, it will be a squad where there will be opportunities for the sort of outstanding young players as well, and it will be a lot more stability to it as well and a lot more quality.
“I think Rohan Smith is looking to deliver a team that can play outstanding rugby, and that’s something that all the Rhinos fans can look forward to in 2024.”
Hetherington has tipped Croft to become a fan favourite with the Australian set to orchestrate a younger and more ‘box-office’ Rhinos squad.
“When Brodie did become available, he’s the type of outstanding individual that can make a difference. He’ll be a great favourite with the fans I’m sure. He’s a player that you want to watch, he’s worth watching and he’ll certainly add a lot of value to the squad.
“The average age of the Rhinos squad will be less next year than it has been this year. We’ve got players like Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers who’ve got the best years ahead of them. Already outstanding players but plenty of room to be left in them and that’s the case with all our players in fact and that’s what makes it so exciting.”