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5 Things We Learned #73

Big job for Sinfield

Well, no one saw that coming. There were rumours and names flying around all week as to who would be Brian McDermott’s successor, but his former captain never even seemed in the picture. I think it’s a very shrewd bit of business from Gary Hetherington and has instantly won back the confidence of the players and most fans.

James Lowes’ appointment as head coach is also a very smart move. As far as I see it, Lowes will run the drills and implement new structures, while Sinfield analyses performance and creates new ideas. It could be the perfect match. While the fan response was initially good, there were plenty more sceptics after another poor performance from the Rhinos against Castleford on Sunday. But Leeds fans need to think, Rome wasn’t built in a day and Leeds won’t be built in three. Time is what Sinfield and Lowes need, only then can people make a fair judgement.

Huddersfield coming good

On Thursday’s form, there’s no reason why Huddersfield can’t cement themselves as a top eight side. Simon Woolford’s men bounced back strongly after last week’s disappointing loss at Hull KR to beat Hull FC 29-18 with a confident and assured performance.

Although it was far from the Black and Whites’ best showing, the Giants never really let them into the game. Defensively they stood strong, while their attack was inspired, partly down to the returning Danny Brough. He was one of a couple of players coming back into the side and had an instant impact. His kicking game was sublime while he organised their attack effectively too. His experience will be key not only in their endeavours this season but in developing young half Oliver Russell, who has looked very promising in Brough’s absence.

Woods comes in clutch

I raved about his first-half performance last week, but it was the second 40 minutes where Josh Woods came to the fore this time round against Warrington. The 20-year-old pulled out a stunning drop goal with seconds to go to win Wigan the game 13-12 and is improving the more he plays.

Of course, he isn’t the first youngster we’ve seen slot a late one-pointer this season. Danny Richardson did it against Leeds just a few weeks ago and while Woods isn’t on the same level just yet, he’s going the right way about getting there. A couple of years in and around the first team, maybe not as a starter but as a rotation player, should do him good, especially working under the guise of George Williams, Sam Powell and Thomas Leuluai.

Wolfpack raring to go

Toronto lifted the Championship title on Saturday on the back of another dominant win over Sheffield. Their attention now, however, will undoubtedly turn towards promotion. With their all-star squad and 16-game winning streak, the Wolfpack won’t be short on confidence and will go into the Qualifiers with the full belief that they can make their mark on the bigger teams.

Personally, I think they’ll go up. Their side is full of quality that more than matches some of the teams they’ll come up against. Salford, in particular, will be in trouble. With a full strength side they’d have a decent chance but not when they’re so down on numbers. Prepare yourselves for some more Qualifiers heartbreak.

NRL influx begins

With the transfer deadline on the horizon and clubs starting to look at rebuilding for next year, it seems an NRL influx has started. Warrington and Leeds announced the big signings of NRL halves Blake Austin and Tuimoala Lolohea respectively at the start of this week, with more Australian talent set to arrive in the UK very soon.

Austin and Lolohea are superb coups for Super League. Both have lit up the Australian competition on numerous occasions in the past few years and are arguably yet to reach their prime at the ages of 27 and 23 respectively. It’s brilliant to see our competition attract top players like this and could be a sign that the tide is changing ever so slightly. Of course, you won’t see players of Jonathan Thurston or Cameron Smith’s calibre gracing Super League, but this is a start. No longer is the British game seen as a retirement home for Aussie’s aged 35+ to get a last payout, but rather a place for players to prove themselves. Ben Barba is the perfect example, and hopefully the likes of Austin and Lolohea will have the same sort of impact he’s had.

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