2017 is just around the corner, so I thought I’d take a look at the 2016 season strugglers, Leeds Rhinos, and give my thoughts on how they’ll get on in 2017.

Last season placing

League: 9th after the regular season – 1st in The Qualifiers

Challenge Cup: 6th Round (Lost 36-22 to Huddersfield Giants)

Summary

The 2016 Super League season will be one that Leeds Rhinos will want deleted from history, it was just a horror show. Many thought going into 2016 that Leeds would continue their domination of the 2015 treble winning campaign. Everyone was in for a huge shock. It all started on the first night of the season when they lost 12-10 at home, to eventual Grand Finalists, Warrington Wolves. It all went downhill from there as they would go on to lose eight of their first 10 Super League games. The season was over before it began.

After losing Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, many questioned whether Leeds could continue to stay on top. However, even with the doubt, no one would think that they would sink so low. When you look at their final statistics for 2016, it makes for terrible reading. In all competitions, they only won 15 games from the 34 they played. For a side who had just won the treble, those are astonishing figures.

Going into the 2017 season, Leeds will be looking to improve, and with the Super League being more competitive than ever before, it won’t be an easy task. Along with Leeds, there’s Wigan, Warrington, St Helens, Hull FC, Catalans and Castleford who I believe are within a great chance of making the top four this coming season. If Leeds were to bounce back and reach the playoffs with the current crop of quality in the Super League, it would be a great effort from McDermott’s men.

Key Players

Liam Sutcliffe: This is going to be a tough season for Sutcliffe. He missed out on getting a 1-13 squad shirt, and I’m sure he’ll be eagerly awaiting his chance. With the veteran pairing of McGuire and Burrows starting in the halves for Leeds next season, you can’t imagine that they will play every game together. There will come a point when one suffers an injury, or needs a rest, and Sutcliffe will get his chance. He’s 22 years old now is Sutcliffe, and getting to the age where he needs to start showing his potential and showing that he is the future stand-off for Leeds Rhinos. I think he’ll be a secret weapon for Leeds this season, coming in under the radar and brining a new dynamic to the team.

Ryan Hall: Not only did Leeds Rhinos have one of their worst Super League seasons to date in 2016, but Ryan Hall had one of his worst too. Scoring only six tries in 17 appearances, which was ridiculous to see after his 2015 season, in which he scored 22 tries in 31 appearances. Granted, he suffered an ankle injury which kept him out for around three months of the season, but six tries in 17 games is nowhere near good enough for a winger of his ability. He’ll be desperate to bounce back this season by scoring close to 20 tries again, and if he stays fit, I can’t see anyone else outscoring him at Leeds.

Matt Parcell: Many will not agree with this choice, because this will be the debut season for Leeds’ new No.9, Matt Parcell. At 24-years old, he’s come over from the NRL after playing with Brisbane Broncos and Manly Sea Eagles, the hooker will be looking to make an impact with his new club, in a new league. There’s going to be so much pressure on him, and with many of the teams not knowing much about him or his game yet, it could be a good season for the young Australian. It’ll obviously take time for him to adapt to his teammates, new combinations and the Super League. But once he does, along with the quality of players around him, I think he could be one of Leeds Rhinos main men in 2017.

Story of 2017

After the horror season of 2016, I think getting back amongst the big boys and the Super 8s is crucial for Leeds Rhinos in 2017. I think they will comfortably finish in the Super 8s this coming season, no doubt. But getting in that top four to reach the playoffs, won’t be a walk in the park. Teams such as Hull FC, Castleford and Catalans got much better in 2016, while Leeds went on holiday, and they’ll be gunning for that top four spot, along with the usual candidates of Wigan, Warrington and St Helens.

2017 is a huge season for Leeds, as they need to bounce back from 2016. They’ll be looking to have a good Cup run and to ultimately reach the playoffs once again. There’s seven teams that could potentially and realistically make the playoffs next season. Leeds will need to improve massively if they are going to make it.

Predictions

League Table: 4th

Challenge Cup: Semi-Finalists

Top try scorer: Ryan Hall

Top points scorer: Liam Sutcliffe

Player of the Year: Ryan Hall