When Leeds Rhinos revealed their team for last night’s clash with Catalans Dragons, many were surprised.
Rohan Smith chose to start Jarrod O’Connor at hooker with skipper Kruise Leeming dropped to the bench and livewire hooker Brad Dwyer absent completely.
Many assumed that Dwyer had failed to get over the knee injury he picked up against Castleford when he banged his leg against a Tigers player and was forced to come off just before Leeds’ sensational comeback.
However, it now seems it was a tactical decision made by Smith. He wanted to start with someone defensively robust in the tackling machine Jarrod O’Connor who played 72 minutes most of which was at nine but some of which was in the backrow.
Smith also revealed he didn’t feel like he could run with effectively three hookers against such a physically big Catalans side: “Against big teams and in final footy, we can’t fit three hookers in the team. Jarrod is a hooker best suited for us or today for that rotation I thought it was best that Jarrod got in there for us. He worked hard with his defence and then Kruise came on and finished things nicely.”
“Brad has done well, another week next week and we’ll see what it holds but I just couldn’t fit three smaller bodies in that middle unit against what they possess in the middle.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Smith adopts a similar strategy in next week’s semi-finals after all both Wigan and Champions St Helens are some of the biggest sides in the league.
However, with Mikolaj Oledzki potentially picking up an injury last night as Morgan Gannon failed his HIA all three may have to play next week with O’Connor reverting to his traditional forward role.