Leeds head coach Richard Agar has lifted the lid on the situation surrounding Rhinos captain Trent Merrin and revealed he has spoken to “a couple” of NRL contracted players.
Reports in both the UK and Australia had suggested the 29-year-old was talking to NRL clubs about a potential move back to Australia for family reasons.
And as the Rhinos’ unveiled Luke Gale as their new signing at a press conference today, Agar also addressed the rumours surrounding Merrin.
“Everybody’s aware that about a third of the way through the season, Trent had to go back to Australia for a very personal family tragedy,” Agar said. “Since I came in as coach and he became captain we’ve built up a brilliant relationship and his performances on the field were outstanding for us.
“But with some of those family issues he’s got at the moment, we’ve given him the opportunity to have a look and see if he can source any deal out that suits him and is a little bit closer to home.
“We’ve got a constant dialogue with him about where it’s all at. We’ve put a timescale on it so if he does source a deal, we’ve got to be across it but there is a line in the sand where we both agree that once he’s had a look, if it’s not right then he’ll come back.”
“There’s a strong part of him that does really want to come back but sometimes there’s just some overriding family situations that are more important than rugby league.”
Agar himself has visited Australia since the season ended and revealed that, while it wasn’t his only motive to go out there, he has spoken to players about a potential move to Emerald Headingley.
He added: “I went out there for a week for a number of reasons. I caught up with some coaches, football and recruitment managers, agents and we got in front of a couple of players in case the situation unravels.
“I’m not going to reveal who the players are but I’m doing that out of respect because we deal direct with clubs and some of the players we spoke to are under contract and not out there on the open market, so there’s a sensitive nature with both the player and the clubs concerned.
“If it works out that Trent tells us he’s good to come back then all those situations get put to bed.”
Cronulla forward Matt Prior is one player who has been linked with a move to Rhinos, with the 33-year-old set to be forced out of the Sharks due to salary cap pressures.