Last night rumours began to swirl that a former Huddersfield Giants star was set to leave his current club begging the question, could he make a return to the John Smith’s Stadium.
Rugby League Live have reported that Leeds Rhinos are willing to allow former captain and Challenge Cup winner Kruise Leeming to leave the club.
Leeming has worn the number nine shirt at Leeds since 2020 and has made 65 appearances for the Rhinos during a time in which he forced his way into the England setup having been named in the 2021 Super League Dream Team.
An injury last year saw him miss out on the World Cup with Jarrod O’Connor replacing him as the club’s starting nine which was a trend that went all the way to the Grand Final and has been assumed again recently.
This is perhaps why Leeming is interested in an exit to ensure more game time.
Leeming has again been left out of the side tonight after recovering from a foot injury sustained against St Helens.
With Leeming’s exit a matter of when rather than if with both Rohan Smith and Gary Hetherington confirming his request to move on from the club, how could Leeds replace the hooker.
Bring in a British hooker
Leeds could bring in a number nine to replace Leeming but they would have to be British with the Rhinos having no quota spots available at present. This is at present unlikely with not too many options in the market.
The most obvious option is young hooker Corey Johnson. When coming through the academy he was one of the bets young players around and made his Leeds debut before Leeming joined the club in 2019 but shockingly retired in 2020 to pursue a career outside the game only to return in 2021 and play on loan at York. When he has played Super League he has looked very good but has struggled with injuries and fitness including back surgery recently.
When James Bentley played under Rohan Smith at Bradford Bulls, he was a ball playing 13 or nine. He played hooker for St Helens at times but has become a top second-row recently. In the last two games he has done short spells at nine. When you have a hooker like Jarrod O’Connor who can do long stints, perhaps this is a smart way of managing the role and carrying more size on the bench.
In 2020 when Richie Myler looked as if he was on his way out of Leeds because of Luke Gale’s arrival, he started the season at nine and did a superb job. In the end, Jack Walker’s injury saw him move to fullback and become a top number one. However, the Rhinos now have Luke Hooley which means that when needed Myler could cover at hooker.