James Bentley was perhaps Leeds’ biggest signing of the off-season.
A Leeds lad, he was handed the chance to play for his boyhood club and was given one of idols famous shirt numbers in the number 11 jersey previously worn by legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
A Super League Champion with St Helens, he was a major coup and was set to give Leeds a certain edge in the middle.
It’s safe to say it’s not been plain sailing for him at Headingley. It got off to a bad start with a red card just 16 minutes into his debut against Warrington and since then he has been in and out of the side due to bans.
However, to describe the signing as a failure would be a gross oversimplification. When Bentley has been in the side, he’s been magnificent offering a brilliant work rate and a willingness to get stuck in when things are getting tough.
He alongside Cameron Smith has been Leeds’ best and most aggressive tackler in 2022 often setting the tone for Leeds defensively.
In fact he was Leeds’ top tackler in their last two games against Hull and St Helens making a whopping 62 tackles against St Helens which is the second highest registered from a Leeds player this year.
But in that same game, Bentley only carried the ball five times for just a total of 13 metres. Equally against Hull he only carried the ball five times for a total of 20 metres.
Now, Bentley is a strong runner just go back and look at his fend off against John Bateman in last year’s Wigan-Saints derby and you will see.
But five carries is very minimal and a bit surprising for a forward. Perhaps Leeds are looking to save his energy for defence but this seems like a missed opportunity from the Rhinos to get a powerful player involved and running wide.
We’ve also seen from Bentley in the past that he has other skills to his game that Leeds don’t appear to be maximising based on these stats.
So, the conundrum for Rohan Smith to solve is how to get Bentley more involved in attack because surely another forward taking on more carries would only bolster their middle which struggled against St Helens.
A great player more than doing his bit defensively, the next step for James Bentley at Leeds is turning him into an offensive weapon too.
Leeds have already done that with Rhyse Martin who has five tries to his name in all competitions in 2022 so now it’s time for Bentley.