At one stage last season, Leeds Rhinos had three star fullbacks to pick from.
After two exceptional seasons at fullback in 2020 and 2021, Richie Myler had competition from Jack Walker at fullback as the season started before injuries saw former Man of Steel Zak Hardaker return to the club from Wigan Warriors.
It was always assumed that they would have at least two of those players in 2023 despite the arrival of Luke Hooley from Batley Bulldogs.
When Jack Walker signed for the Bradford Bulls, it was assumed that the cap space would be used to tie down Hardaker but he left for Leigh Leopards.
Thus, the question at fullback had been simplified. It seemed Richie Myler was certain for the role and this was confirmed as he was given the number one shirt.
However, in pre-season another player has played far more rugby at fullback than Myler.
Mid-week Rohan Smith confirmed his team for the third pre-season friendly against Bradford Bulls and again Ash Handley was down at fullback for the third game in a row hinting that Smith could use him there in Super League.
Usual fullback Myler started in the halves with Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin absent. Instead, he is joined by Morgan Gannon who for the third time features in the halves.
Myler played half of the game against Leigh Leopards at fullback but played the game a lot as a playmaker and kicker alongside two young halfbacks in Gannon and Jack Sinfield.
That Leigh game seemed to be the perfect chance for Smith to play his first choice spine with Leeming, Austin and Sezer all involved. So why start Handley at fullback if not to get him ready to play the role in Super League?
Speaking after today’s win over Bradford Bulls, assistant coach Chev Walker had his say on whether Handley could start the season at fullback:
“Again pre-season is an exercise, in some ways it’s our toughest training session and trying to work out our combos and taking it live is probably the best way to do it rather than throwing someone in at fullback in Round One.
“He could play anywhere.”