Could Richard Agar and Kevin Sinfield’s new Rhinos revolution lead the club to a ninth Super League title?

I can remember three years ago, after a big win over Catalans, Brian McDermott was ridiculed for suggesting his Leeds Rhinos side could win the Grand Final.

It was, after all, only a couple of weeks after they were humiliated 66-10 at Castleford, and only six months after they had to fight for Super League survival in the Qualifiers.

As we know, Leeds went on to beat the Tigers at Old Trafford later that year and lift their eighth Super League title.

I can certainly see similarities between this side and that one, coming off the back of a poor season with lowered expectations.

That really played into their hands three years ago and you can already see them thriving on it again this season, winning three of their first four Super League games under Richard Agar.

Obviously, back in 2017, the likes of Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow provided some much-needed experience and class to their squad.

Although they don’t have these club legends to call on now, there is plenty of talent to counter that, as shown in the 36-0 thumping of Warrington last week.

Jack Walker has cemented the number one jersey at Leeds. Credit: News Images

One of those talents is Jack Walker, who broke into the squad in 2017, ending the year as a Grand Final winner at the age of 17.

Three years on and this could be another huge season for the England Knights star, who was outstanding on Friday as Leeds put Warrington to the sword in impressive fashion.

Unfortunately a foot injury cut short his evening against the Wolves, but the way the Leeds coaching staff have stuck with him through their struggles speaks volumes of his class.

Usually as teams flirt with relegation, coaches ditch youth for experience, but not with Walker. He will have learnt so much from the bad times in West Yorkshire and will come back firing when he returns.

He must be a real contender for the England number one jersey at next year’s World Cup in what will already be his fifth year in Super League – and he will still only be 21!

Harry Newman was called up to the senior England squad this week. Credit: News Images

Just as exciting a prospect is Harry Newman. He looked way beyond his years in a masterful and powerful performance against last year’s Challenge Cup winners.

Newman only turned 20 a fortnight ago but is now a firm fixture in the Rhinos team and has earned a senior England call-up in the process.

He could benefit from having Shaun Wane as the national coach, who proved at Wigan that he isn’t afraid to blood young talent in big games.

Although the 2021 World Cup may just come a bit too soon given the competition in the centres, Newman is a future starter for the national team and looks like a Rhinos captain in waiting.

Another player that really stood out in their win last Friday was Richie Myler, a player who chose to stay at Headingley despite losing his squad number.

Richie Myler filled in at fullback for Leeds against his former club Warrington. Credit: News Images

Myler was thrust into an unfamiliar role when Walker limped off and it was heartening to see him give such an assured performance, especially after an early error.

The 29-year-old showed he won’t let the side down when called on and it underlined the strength in depth at the club’s disposal, something you have to credit Kevin Sinfield for.

Club legend Kevin Sinfield is now Director of Rugby at Emerald Headingley. Credit: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

The Rhinos legend has come in for criticism in his Director of Rugby role, especially regarding the club’s recruitment, but he always maintained it was a long-term plan to return the club to its former glories.

Recent acquisitions Luke Gale and Rob Lui appear to be striking up a formidable partnership in the halves, providing much-needed structure and organisation to the team.

Other recruits such as Rhyse Martin, Ava Seumanufagai, Alex Mellor and Matt Prior have added strike and grit to a forward pack that has been light for several years.

Meanwhile Tonga international centre Konrad Hurrell and England winger Ash Handley have formed one of the deadliest left-side partnerships in Super League.

Konrad Hurrell has become a fan favourite at the Rhinos. Credit: Craig Milner/News Images

You look at the Rhinos now and they look strong, how a Leeds team should, and the side that played Warrington was still missing the likes of Kruise Leeming and club captain Stevie Ward.

What can’t be underestimated in all this is the role of head coach Richard Agar, a man who was thrown into the hot seat at Headingley less than a year ago.

Initially employed on an interim basis, Agar guided the club to safety before taking the job permanently ahead of this season, a decision that didn’t please all of the club’s supporters.

Despite an opening weekend to forgot, losing heavily at home to Hull FC, Leeds have started the season very well and will fancy their chances of making it four consecutive wins next up against Toronto – ironically coached by former boss McDermott.

Richard Agar will come up against former Leeds boss Brian McDermott in the next round of Super League. Credit: News Images

What are the Rhinos chances on a wider scale this season though, could they possibly repeat the feat of 2017 and go from relegation fodder to champions?

Well you just never know because, as Salford proved last season, Super League is now more unpredictable than ever and Leeds clearly have the class.

Don’t get me wrong it’s very early days and the clocks don’t go forward for a month, but it’s good to see the Rhinos looking like they can challenge the likes of St Helens this year.

We’ll learn a lot more about Agar’s side in a couple of weeks when they play the reigning champions and then travel to face local rivals Castleford.

It’s a long season with many twists and turns, but if playmaker Luke Gale can stay fit, Leeds will have a very strong chance of making the top five, then, as they have proved many times in the past, anything can happen from there.

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