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Leeds Rhinos turned down chance to sign St Helens legend

Leeds Rhinos missed out on signing St Helens legend Jon Wilkin.

Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington has been speaking openly this week as he joined the Sky Sports The Bench podcast to chat all things rugby league.

The Rhinos CEO was in a playful mood, revealing who he thinks will win the Super League Grand Final while also giving his honest thoughts on IMG.

One thing of the past noted by Hetherington in the podcast though was his and Leeds’ chance to sign a player who would go on to become a legend of Super League and St Helens.

Leeds Rhinos missed out on St Helens legend

Leeds Rhinos CEO joined The Bench podcast.

Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

It was revealed by Hetherington that the Rhinos had been interested in none other than The Bench podcast host and Sky Sports pundit Jon Wilkin during his early career.

“I was actually recommended you at a very early age,” Hetherington told Wilkin directly. “You were at university in Liverpool and we didn’t move fast enough as St Helens nipped in – you gave great service to St Helens.

He continued: “I’ve got a good memory and particularly on the ones I made mistakes on. I didn’t think you were big enough actually, but you made up for it with your skills and your other abilities.”

Wilkin started his career at Hull KR but joined St Helens in 2002 after two years with the Robins. He would go on to make 424 appearances for Saints winning every domestic honour in the game.

Jon Wilkin a Rhino?

It would have certainly changed history if Hetherington has been quicker and snapped up Wilkin in his early days, with the back-rower likely to have played a role in Leeds’ golden generation.

Between 2007 and 2011, Wilkin and Saints lost five Super League Grand Finals in a row, four of them were to Leeds, so maybe Hetherington and the Rhinos didn’t need Wilkin after all?

During that period of dominance for Leeds, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who ironically now works with Wilkin on Sky Sports, and Carl Ablett were the club’s regular second-rowers – would Wilkin have started in place of those two?

What we can be sure of knowing though is that Wilkin in his prime would have found a way into the Rhinos team, making Hetherington’s slow approach for the 10-time England international an undoubted ‘mistake’ in his long run as Leeds CEO.

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