It’s Grand Final day and for the first time in five years serial winners of Super League’s showpiece event the Leeds Rhinos are back at the Theatre of Dreams chasing an impossible dream.
They were second bottom in April and now they’re just 80 minutes away from a record ninth Grand Final victory in this their 11th appearance at Old Trafford.
New boss Rohan Smith has worked wonders in getting them this far but what team will he pick to get the Rhinos over the line this evening?
One of the big calls he will have to make yet still one of the simplest is on the left wing. Liam Tindall has played there for the last two weeks and despite his inexperience has done a good job out wide for the Rhinos.
But should vice-captain Ash Handley be fit to play he would likely to take the left wing spot after missing out on Grand Finals in 2015 and 2017 with Tom Briscoe, who will make his farewell appearance for the club on the right wing tonight, keeping him out of the side on those occasions.
Handley was described as “50/50” to play by Smith so it’s likely we will see Tindall keep his spot on the wing.
Liam Sutcliffe will be on his inside to make his final appearance for the club whilst Zak Hardaker’s position remains up in the air.
The only player in the Leeds squad to have beaten St Helens in a Grand Final scoring in the 2011 decider, Hardaker started that day at right centre which is where he has been playing recently. However, he could move to fullback should Smith want to play Richie Myler in the halves which would see the returning Rhyse Martin start in the backs.
However, I believe Smith won’t want to mess around with his backline too much so I expect Myler at fullback and Hardaker at centre. So, who will play in the halves? Youngster Jack Sinfield won’t and it seems neither will Kruise Leeming who when he spoke to us revealed he’d been preparing to play hooker.
This could mean that Cameron Smith will start in the halves as he did against Wigan earlier this season. This would give Leeds extra size against a brilliant Saints pack. He’ll join Blake Austin in the halves.
Mikolaj Oledzki and Matt Prior will start at prop with Jarrod O’Connor at hooker still keeping Kruise Leeming out of the starting 13 and subsequently departing star Brad Dwyer out of the 17. Martin will return to join James Bentley in the backrow with Zane Tetevano at loose-forward.
Skipper Kruise Leeming will be joined by youngster Sam Walters, James Donaldson and Bodene Thompson who is making his 250th appearance tonight and his second in a Grand Final.
Predicted Line-up in Full:
16 Richie Myler
20 Tom Briscoe
33 Zak Hardaker
4 Liam Sutcliffe
29 Liam Tindall
6 Blake Austin
17 Cameron Smith
8 Mikolaj Oledzki
24 Jarrod O’Connor
10 Matt Prior
11 James Bentley
12 Rhyse Martin
13 Zane Tetevano
9 Kruise Leeming
19 Bodene Thompson
22 Sam Walters
25 James Donaldson