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Will 2022 be the year of the Rhino or is 2023 more likely?

Expectations are high at Headingley going into 2022. After years in the wilderness, the last two years have been important steps forward for the Rhinos. Along with the Challenge Cup trophy, they’ve secured back-to-back fifth place finishes and played in a first Super League semi-final in five years.

The arrival of Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer, James Bentley and David Fusitu’a alongside the slow build of the last two seasons has Leeds fans believing 2022 could see them return to Old Trafford for the first time since 2017 as they look to end their longest wait for Grand Final glory since they ended a three-decade wait for a Championship in 2004.

Leeds certainly appear to have a lot of depth in key positions which is key to success. Both Richie Myler and Jack Walker are exciting fullbacks and both will be vying for the number one spot next year whilst Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer and Luke Gale will be battling for the six and seven jerseys. In Kruise Leeming and Brad Dwyer they have two superb number nines and they have depth in the role thanks to Corey Johnson’s return to the club last year.

With an already exciting pack, they’ll only be stronger down the middle next year thanks to James Bentley’s arrival. That said, Leeds perhaps lack a little bit of depth in this area following the departure of King Vuniyayawa and it could be said that Leeds would benefit from an impact sub akin to Sam Kasiano at Catalans or Agnatius Paasi at St Helens.

Nonetheless, their forwards are good enough already to be competitive and with another year of development under their belts, Tom Holroyd and Mikolaj Oledzki will make them even better.

Thus, the building blocks are in place for an exciting 2022 season for Leeds but it’ll still be tough for the Rhinos if they want to end their Grand Final wait next year. I’d fancy them to make the semi-finals and from there who knows, but it’s not a sure thing in the same way it was when Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow were leading the Rhinos around the field.

But it could be a sure thing by 2023. Leeds have one of the best sets of youngsters in the league and arguably the best at Leeds since McGuire and Burrow burst through. By 2023, the likes of Tom Holroyd, Jack Broadbent and Morgan Gannon will be even better whilst Harry Newman and Mikolaj Oledzki will be about to hit their prime.

Leeds will also have another chance to add quality to their squad from abroad and from their Super League rivals meaning their squad could be even better by 2023 both thanks to the development of young stars and the arrival of ready-made ones in positions Leeds still need to strengthen.

The Rhinos are a clear-cut candidate for the top four in 2022 and Grand Final glory is not impossible nor is Challenge Cup success, but 2023 could be the year for Leeds as they look to end their time in transition and return to the glory once synonymous with the Rhinos.

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