Season Preview: Leeds Rhinos
The Rhinos have brought in major reinforcements ahead of 2022 as they look to build on a season which left them just 80 minutes away from a return to Old Trafford. Richard Agar’s side will need to start the new season strong if they are to mount a serious challenge at the top of Betfred Super League. The Rhinos managed just two wins from their opening seven games last season – both of those coming against eleventh placed Wakefield Trinity – as they stuttered their way through the opening quarter of the season.
However, they finished the year well, losing just twice during their final seven regular season games and will look to carry their end of season form into 2022. The Rhinos new half back pairing of Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin has certainly caught the eye – the pair played alongside each other during their time at NRL side Canberra Raiders and will be hoping to rekindle their relationship this season. Add hometown star and Super League Grand Final winner James Bentley to the equation, alongside flying Tongan test winger David Fusitu’a and the Rhinos have certainly bolstered an already impressive squad.
If they can stay injury free and field a consistent side – something they struggled to do during large chunks of 2021 – the Rhinos are more than capable of challenging the top sides in 2022.
Ins & Outs
David Fusitu’a (New Zealand Warriors), Aidan Sezer (Huddersfield Giants), Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves), James Bentley (St Helens), Muizz Mustapha (Hull KR, loan return).
Konrad Hurrell (St Helens), Rob Lui (Retired), King Vuniyayawa (Salford Red Devils), Callum McLelland (Castleford Tigers), Alex Sutcliffe (Castleford Tigers), Luke Briscoe (Featherstone Rovers), Luke Gale (Hull FC), Corey Hall (Wakefield Trinity).
Ones to watch
The arrival of Aidan Sezer at Headingley should give Leeds a real boost in 2022. Leeds will hope their new half-back pairing of Sezer and Blake Austin can hit the ground running after struggling for consistency in the halves last season.
Sezer took Super League by storm when he joined Huddersfield in 2020 – the half-back finished the year with 25 try contributions in 16 games - the second highest in the competition - having a hand in 46 percent of the Giants tries during his debut season. Sezer was also a Man of Steel finalist in 2020 and whilst he failed to hit similar heights in 2021 after an injury hit campaign, playing just seven times last year, he looks to be getting back to his influential best ahead of the upcoming season.
It’s fair to say that Zane Tetevano’s debut season for the Rhinos didn’t go as well as he would have expected - the rampaging forward spent a lot of time on the side lines through suspensions and injury. In total, he managed to play just 11 of the Rhinos 26 regular season and play-off fixtures.
Tetevano pulled no punches about his underwhelming year and the forward is determined to make amends in 2022. Tetevano is certainly a force when he’s on the field – he leads from the front in both attack and defence, with little regard for his own wellbeing. He averaged over 100 metres from 12 carries per game last season and, if he tidies up his discipline whilst maintaining his competitive, aggressive edge, he will be a devastating force this season.
Morgan Gannon made headlines in 2021 after debuting for the Rhinos at just 17-years-old. The youngster continuously held his own in the Rhinos forward pack, making 13 appearances during his debut season in the topflight. Gannon’s sharp rise to stardom will see him firmly in the picture for a place in Richard Agar’s side throughout the new season despite the Rhinos wealth of options in the back row. He is rightfully being earmarked as a future star of Super League and even made his England Knights debut during their match against Jamaica in October.
If Leeds are to rectify last season's slow start in 2022, they will have to beat some of the competitions best. The Rhinos face a challenging start to the 2022 campaign with their first three fixtures are against three of last years top four. They kick off the new season at home against Warrington Wolves on Saturday 12 February – it will be the first Super League game to be broadcast on terrestrial television when Channel 4 cover their first of 10 games this season. That’s followed by a trip to Wigan before hosting 2021 League Leaders Catalans Dragons.
The Rhinos also make two trips to France just 14 days apart in July when they face both Toulouse and Catalans away from home. The summer months always test squad depth and the Rhinos resolve will be put to the test with two difficult away fixtures in the space of two weeks.
The boys were back in training this morning as we begin preparations for Sunday's friendly at Featherstone pic.twitter.com/rlNuE1RZI8
— Leeds Rhinos (@leedsrhinos) January 10, 2022
1. Jack Walker, 2. David Fusitu'a, 3. Harry Newman, 4. Liam Sutcliffe, 5. Ash Handley, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Mikolaj Oledzki, 9. Kruise Leeming, 10. Matt Prior, 11. James Bentley, 12. Rhyse Martin, 13. Zane Tetevano, 14. Brad Dwyer, 15. Alex Mellor, 16. Richie Myler, 17. Cameron Smith, 18. Tom Holroyd, 19. Bodene Thompson, 20. Tom Briscoe, 21. Morgan Gannon, 22. Sam Walters, 23. Jack Broadbent, 24. Jarrod O'Connor, 25. James Donaldson, 26. Corey Johnson, 27. Muizz Mustapha, 28. Max Simpson, 29. Liam Tindall, 30. Levi Edwards, 31. Oli Field, 32. Jack Sinfield.