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Barrie McDermott calls on youth to step forward and claim Leeds Rhinos captaincy spot

Leeds Rhinos made the controversial decision not to name a captain for the 2023 season, something that caused confusion among fans and pundits alike, with ex-Rhino Barrie McDermott hoping that one of the squad’s young stars steps up to the mantle in 2024.

Naming a captain is a fairly standard practice in sports however the Rhinos bucked the trend when they didn’t just not name a captain publicly, it was explicitly confirmed that there would be no captain.

Per the Yorkshire Post that is something that is set to change for the 2024 season with Smith reportedly set to name a skipper, something that will surely please fans as many felt it hindered the Headingley outfit in 2023.

Earlier in the off-season Serious About Rugby League spoke with former Rhino Barrie McDermott and the now Sky Sports pundit offered his viewpoint on the decision.

McDermott explained:  “I was pretty lucky that when I played at Leeds and we had a couple of young captains at the time. Iestyn Harris joined in 97 and by 98 he was the captain and then when he left there was a couple of others and then a young Kevin Sinfield took over, so it might be one of the young players that steps forward.”

In that list of young players there’s a number of men with the potential to be captain, Cameron Smith being one of the obvious names that jump to the front of the list but also the rogue shout of Harry Newman who will be returning to Leeds ‘a different player’, according to Shaun Wane.

Overall though McDermott was firm on his stance:  “I’m definitely in favour of having one overall captain. He has to be in a key position so he has to be in one of those spine positions, and he has to be able to communicate on and off the field, he has to be somebody that sets the standards.

“Rohan Smith obviously last year must have felt that he didn’t have anybody that fitted that bill, he didn’t have anybody that he could trust. Let’s hope that either some of the players that are coming in, or some of those younger players are putting their case forward.

“Who that looks like and who gets that job, I can’t really say. I don’t think there’s an outstanding candidate, but I don’t think that particular way of doing it helped Leeds last year.”

Fitting in with McDermott’s ethos of a captain you’d be looking at the spine players, all of which are new recruits for 2024 in the positions of one, six, seven and nine. That brings up the immortal question, is thirteen a spine player and if so does that mean Cameron Smith is the man for the job?

Regardless of who is picked McDermott told SARL that despite the disappointment of 2023 in which Leeds failed to crack the play-offs, there’s plenty to be positive about for 2024 and the implementation of a captain could be vital in turning losses to wins.

“But let’s be honest, there were half a dozen games that they could have won,” McDermott explained, adding: “There were two or four points difference and for the team not to get those wins, that affected them.

“They’ve got to be on the right side of those tight games next year and that takes a good bit of character, a good bit of confidence in the people who you’re lining up against.

“From all that you hear coming out of the Rhinos, they’re on that journey and they’re confident they’re going to get there in the end.”

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