Following the departures of Liam Sutcliffe to Hull FC and Zak Hardaker to Leigh Leopards ahead of 2023, Leeds Rhinos needed to sign a new centre and subsequently drafted in Leigh Leopards star Nene MacDonald who coach Rohan Smith has worked with in the past at Norths Devils.
However, after an injury in the World Cup he, alongside fellow centre Harry Newman who between them will wear the three and four shirts at Headingley in 2023, are doubts for the opener.
So, when asked about who could play centre against Warrington Wolves in Round One, Rohan Smith said:
“No different this evening to this morning, as far as who might play in round one. It was positive to see all four do well. Derrell grew up playing centre, Ash Handley is a good footballer all round, he looked like a centre today and he also looked like a fullback but he is a winger, so that’s a good sign.
“Roberts was good, I see him as a winger and centre going forward. He’s a big kid and good kid.
“Levi Edwards did quite well today.”
He then suggested that MacDonald could play on the wing rather than at centre:
“Nene MacDonald is a very accomplished centre but probably has played his best rugby on the wing. Fusitu’a can play at centre as well. We have created good versatility, that’s what I want.
“Who plays round one might be different to Round Two and Round Three.”
Smith also spoke about whether youngsters will get a crack:
“Luis has played Super League so he has a bit more of a proven path, Levi has only just turned 19. There is an undermentioned difference between playing Super League once or twice than every week.
“All players need some kind of stage progression into an every week player. Sometimes a young kid jumps in and stay but that’s a rarity.
“Those kids will get their chance when veterans are out but they won’t get their opportunity by playing, more veteran players will get first opportunity because they’ve earnt that right.”