To anyone who has seen Leeds Rhinos’ squad for Round One, there is one position that clearly carries a question mark and that is the centres.
With Harry Newman and Nene MacDonald who will wear three and four in 2023 out injured, there is a gap here and a number of players who could fill it.
Wingers David Fusitu’a and Ash Handley both started in the centres against Hull KR in Leeds’ last pre-season fixture.
Meanwhile, Rhyse Martin has played a lot of minutes in the role including half a game against the Robins.
Luis Roberts is adept at that role and scored a try from centre against Leigh Leopards in pre-season whilst Rohan Smith has been outspoken about the possibility that new signing from Castleford Tigers, though a brilliant winger, can play centre.
He has returned from illness to the squad after missing the games against Bradford Bulls and Hull KR.
When asked today about the centre roles, Smith had this to say going into Round One against Warrington Wolves:
“I wouldn’t say quandary, I’d say opportunity to get some guys exposure and through some of the matches and I think what we see in Round One, might not be what we see in Rounds Three, Four, Five or 20 weeks down the line.
“I think there is some versatility in our squad which I am excited by.”
Not giving the game away at all, Smith did confirm he has been pretty settled on who will play there this week: “This week I have been pretty settled on the two I will play at centre on Thursday.”
Smith also gave an update on Newman and MacDonald:
“They’ve still got a bit to do. They’re trending in the right direction and they’re on track.
“As I’ve said in the past, sometimes at the back end of these long term rehabs, it’s hard to be exactly specific of their returns but they’re reaching milestones and progressing.”
Perhaps most interestingly, Smith reiterated that MacDonald may not play in the position everyone thinks:
“As far as everyone wants me to say that Nene will play centre when he’s back, Nene is a winger or a centre so we will worry about that at a later stage, this week is very much about who is playing.”