As the Super League season kick-off draws closer, we look at how Current Champions Leeds Rhinos will go in 2018.
The Rhinos are the most successful team in the Super League Era with eight titles since the game moved to Summer back in 1996. They will be looking to defend their crown in 2018 as well as becoming only the Second British team to win the World Club Challenge in Australia.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Brad Dwyer (Warrington Wolves), Richie Myler (Catalans Dragons), Nathaniel Peteru (Gold Coast Titans)
Rob Burrow (Retirement), Danny McGuire (Hull Kingston Rovers), Jordan Baldwinson (Wakefield Trinity), Cory Aston (Castleford Tigers)
Warrington (A), Hull KR (H), Melbourne (WCC,A), Widnes (A), Catalans (H)
WHAT TO EXPECT
2017 was a year where the Rhinos hit the heights that was expected of them after a disappointing 2016 campaign which seen them finish in the bottom 4 leaving them in a fight for their Super League survival. Head coach Brian McDermott will be hoping 2018 will be a continuation of their 2017 campaign. Their first challenge comes in the opening weeks of the season as they prepare to take on Melbourne Storm in the World Club Challenge. They could create history and become the first side in the Super League era and only the second British side to ever win the World Club Challenge in Australia. The Storm refused to travel to the UK so the Rhinos have taken the challenge down under. It will be the fourth time these two sides have met in the World Club Challenge. The Rhinos won the first meeting in 2008 but the Storm have won the last two in 2010 and 2013. Despite that the primary aim you feel is to defend their Super League title. The Rhinos have made visiting Old Trafford a habit having played in 10 Grand Finals. Having lost long serving senior players Rob Burrow who has retired and Danny McGuire who has joined newly promoted Hull KR it’s a different looking squad with Joel Moon having taking the number six shirt previously held by McGuire and New signing Richie Myler taking the number seven shirt that was held by Burrow. Mcdermott will be hoping his new look half back partnership will hit the ground running,
In a player full of senior players it’s a relative youngster that I believe can help the Rhinos in their pursuit of a ninth Super League Title. Stevie Ward helped his side to grab an eighth title against Castleford Tigers despite dislocating his shoulder on eight days earlier. The injury meant the loose forward was ruled out of England’s World Cup campaign. Ward has been seen as a replacement for Kevin Sinfield for the Rhinos and he could very easily slot into the Sinfield role. Ward has got the ability to step up and help his side at any time. He scored 10 tries in 26 appearances in 2017. If he manages to have an injury free season in 2018 he will be one of Brian McDermott’s first names on the team sheet week in week out.
As usual with Leeds there isn’t a lot of players joining or leaving the club. Three players have joined and just four leaving. Brad Dwyer and Richie Myler are experienced Super League Players with over 250 first team appearances between them. Dwyer is a hooker who comes from Warrington and will replace Rob Burrow who often played in the number nine role off the bench in the later stages of his career. Myler joins from Catalans Dragons and has big boots to fill replacing Danny McGuire in the halves. Brian McDermott has backed Myler to replace McGuire and look to claim his England shirt back saying ““He has the ability to get back in the England squad, of course he has,” said McDermott, speaking at Rhinos’ 2018 season media launch. “As a half, there’s got to be a really good reason why you’re in the team internationally if you’re not really a threat with the ball. You have to have an extremely good kicking game and be able to marshal the other twelve blokes and they have to do exactly what you say, when you say it. “There are some examples and some great half-backs throughout the years who have been a bit one-paced and don’t have that zip about them yet have other qualities. “But I think Richie would have gone really well in this recent World Cup with his abilities to either support someone and get on the back of that to finish it off, or to create something himself.” The other signing for the Rhinos is Nathaniel Peteru. The New Zealand born forward has signed a three-year deal from NRL Gold Cost Titans having made 15 appearances as the Titans finished second bottom in their NRL 2017 campaign.
The opening of the season could be difficult for the Rhinos with their opening home game not being played at Headingley due to refurbishment works taking place at the Stadium. Rhinos kick off their Super League campaign at Warrington before playing Hull KR at Elland Road. The Rhinos then travel to Australia to take on Melbourne they then go to Widnes before their first game at Headingley as they welcome Catalan. A tricky run mid-season sees them host St Helens and then travel to Wigan and Castleford. But their last two regular season home games sees them host Wakefield and Widnes before ending the season at Salford.
Top Tryscorer – Ryan Hall
Top Pointscorer – Kallum Watkins
Club Player of the Year – Stevie Ward
WHERE WILL LEEDS RHINOS FINISH?