DESPITE RECORDING their first Boxing Day win in three years, Betfred Super League champions Leeds Rhinos have some hard work to do before the season begins, boss Brian McDermott admits.
Rhinos began their pre-season campaign with a 17-10 win at Wakefield Trinity, whose coach Chris Chester’s Christmas was marred by injuries to two first-choice players.
Rhinos scored three tries to two and McDermott was given an indication of what needs to improve ahead of their league opener at Warrington on February 1.
“They are all right these festive games in the middle of pre-season, but we are not ready to play,” McDermott conceded.
“We are nowhere near ready for the season.”
Even so, McDermott felt Rhinos “looked okay in spells”.
He said: “It was a challenging game and a contest for a lot of it, then really pleasing towards the back end, when we took off our more regular players and put on some of our more irregular players, that we looked okay.”
The coach was happy with try-scoring forwards Mikolaj Oledzki and Jack Ormondroyd and impressed by hooker Brad Dwyer’s first game for Leeds.
“He is going to be good,” McDermott added of the former Warrington man. “He had lots of energy in defence and he doesn’t need any invites to run.”
Richie Myler’s first appearance was ended at half-time due to a bang to the head, but McDermott confirmed he was “okay” after the game.
“For a first run out he was good,” he said. “He’s been great in pre-season so far. He wasn’t outstanding, but he made sure everybody else played well and that’s what we want the halves to do, ensure everybody else has a good platform to play from. It’s a shame he got knocked out because I thought he was getting more into it.”
Signing Nathaniel Peteru’s debut for Leeds was put on hold.
McDermott explained: “He has had some rumblings with his knee which has caused some sort of hamstring problem, so we’re looking at that.
“I think if he’d been forced to play he would have done, but there was no need.”
It was a challenging game and a contest for a lot of it, then really pleasing towards the back end, when we took off our more regular players and put on some of our more irregular playersLeeds Rhinos’ head coach, Brian mcDermott
Trinity lost hooker Tyler Randell to a knee injury after five minutes and prop Anthony England hobbled off in the second half.
“It looks like a medial [ligament injury],” Chester said of Randell. “We are hopeful it’s nothing more serious. He will get assessed, go for a scan and we will see how he is.
“I am gutted for the kid because he never normally gets injured, he had a good record at Newcastle [Knights], then he comes over here and he’s had two bad injuries in his last two games.”
Chester is hopeful England’s injury is not long-term, but said Ben Jones-Bishop and Kyle Wood also suffered minor knocks.
New signing Justin Horo was sidelined due to a shoulder problem, but is expected to play against Halifax in Wakefield’s next pre-season game on January 7.
“Both teams rested a lot of players and we had a good opportunity to blood some young kids and give some guys a debut,” Chester said. “With a bit of luck it could have been a draw, but there was a lot of positives.
“Losing Tyler put a lot on to Woody’s and Ryan Hampshire’s shoulders and I thought Ryan was pretty good, certainly in the second half.
“It was just that 15 minutes after half-time when we lost a bit of concentration. We only completed three from 10 and they were nine from 10. We wanted to win, but overall I am happy.”