Leeds Rhinos face a huge contest against Wigan Warriors and will do so without a number of key players.
Whilst Ash Handley remains a doubt for the game, James Bentley and Aidan Sezer will both be absent due to concusion.
This has compounded the need for them to rely on young players:
“I think appearances in the first team should be earned firstly, so they won’t be just given it out. But as you said, we’ve got everything to play for every week regardless of the ladder.
“It’s important that we play our best every week and we’ll be sure to put the best team out that we think is ready to play that weekend.
“We are down on troops, people have moved on mid-season that we haven’t replaced and we’ve also got a few season-ending injuries, so Bentley and Sezer probably won’t play the rest of the regular season anyway, so for them to be alive, we’ll have to get to the playoffs.
“We are light on troops, so if it means that young guys are getting their chance, they’ve also earned that opportunity through hard work.
“We had a bunch of kids start the first week of November well before the first team came back for training and those guys got an extra month in and most of them haven’t missed a beat. So if they get a turn, I’m happy to reward them for that effort.”
It also means Sezer could have played his last game for the club:
“It’s a little bit the nature of it. He’s had a couple of bumps this year and given his age and his history, he had a severe one at the back end of last year as well. So the specialist has recommended a 28 day return to play process which will be close to the back end of the season.
“So it’s not ruled out but again his health and his longevity in the game is also to be considered there.”
But that won’t be the case for James Bentley after he signed a new deal:
“James Bentley has agreed to terms for a further two years with us, so we’re excited to have James around.
“His performances in the last little while particularly sort of coincided with some work he’s done off the field and he’s really heading on the right track, I think.
“James has always wanted to play for the Rhinos. I know his career here started a little rough last year, the suspension guidelines were very harsh last year. They’ve lightened off a little bit and James has also improved in some areas.
“He competes hard, he plays hard, the boys all like him. I think his best footy is still ahead of him. So, he’s of that age where he’s starting to work it out and I expect a big 2024 from James.
“At the back end of last season he performed really well on the field. He managed to get that fine balance right of competing hard and being aggressive but also being effective. He’s done that most of this season.
“He’s been a little interrupted with a knee injury at the start of the season. Probably didn’t get into the flow of it until more recently and then he suffered that significant head knock. significant head knocks. That one, it’s unfortunate timing because he’s really starting to get some momentum.
“James is a great competitor, he works hard and he’s very committed towards the club for the short and the long term.”