It’s been well documented how much Rohan Smith altered his squad for Boxing Day with out of position players, young players and the bleeding in of multiple new signings but it’s the young players that caught the eye most and when asked about the upcoming season one player who debuted on Boxing Day thinks there’s plenty to look forward to in the future.
Joe Gibbons was one of the young players involved and he made his senior debut for Rhinos, following in the footsteps of his father David who also donned the amber and blue and now is the assistant coach for the women’s side.
Gibbons impressed alongside fellow debutants such as Leon Ruan who signed from Doncaster and whilst both have been granted squad numbers for the upcoming season there’s still a likelihood that they’ll be playing in plenty of reserve games, to keep their match fitness up for when Smith calls on them for the first team.
Speaking to the Rhinos’ Youtube channel this was something that was mentioned to Gibbons, who featured in that reserve team last year for an academy that has been a conveyer belt of talent, and he responded positively.
“Yeah I think we’ve got a good crop of youngsters coming through. Some of them it’s a bit scary what they can do, they’re very athletic and I think it’ll be a good side this year and we’ll get a few good wins under our belt.”
Despite impressing on debut Gibbons was aware that reserve team rugby may be the main way he gets playing time as he referenced training with the first team squad and his willingness to play whenever required.
“It’s a really good test, you want to play against the best and training with some of the best players in the Super League. You’ve got to get used to it, used to the pace and what’s expected of you because obviously expectations are higher than what they were in the academy and the reserves, so getting up to speed and mixing it with them is great.
“I didn’t expect it (getting a first team squad number), I was really buzzing with that and it’s something I’ll always be grateful for.
“I’ll always put my hand up if needed and get some good minutes under my belt whoever I’m playing for whether it’s the reserves or somewhere else. I’m just going to pout my best foot forward and go from there.”
The 20-year-old second-rower Gibbons impressed in the reserve team last year making nine appearances and scoring six tries so his place in the first team is fully warranted and with Rohan Smith clearly intent on creating a squad in his own vision, Gibbons could become one of the legends of the future as so many who have also come through the academy have done before him.