Following the departure of Luke Gale and the arrival of former Canberra teammates Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, it became apparent that the duo would be the trusted pairing in the halves at Headingley in 2022 and would be the bedrock Leeds looked to build their season around.
However, in the opening round they’ll be without Blake Austin as they take on his former team Warrington Wolves with the stand-off suspended for a late hit on former Rhino Gale in Tom Briscoe’s testimonial. So, what will Richard Agar do to address this problem within as Leeds look to start the season in good form in 2022? With that in mind, we’re assessing the five options Leeds have this Saturday.
For much of 2021, Kruise Leeming shone in the halves for Leeds due to the number of injuries the Rhinos had to deal with throughout the campaign. With an astute kicking game which led to a number of 40/20s, a real sharpness and a superb support game as well as the ability to stand up a defender and move the ball into space, he would be a very suitable option at six on Saturday. Moving the new skipper into the halves would of course see former Warrington man Brad Dwyer start with Leeds perhaps going without a backup hooker on the bench with Corey Johnson set to remain on loan at Bradford.
Given the number four shirt for 2022, Liam Sutcliffe only played one game at centre in 2021 after excelling in the role throughout 2020. The reason he wasn’t given the opportunity to play centre more in 2021? Injuries. Sutcliffe played most of his rugby in the halves last year, the position he burst onto the scene playing. Now an out and out centre, he doesn’t play his best rugby at six but he has the experience and played there in a pre-season friendly against Bradford. Should he figure at six, Leeds would no doubt play Tom Briscoe and Harry Newman at centre that’s if Newman is declared fit after a hamstring strain against Hull FC. If he’s unavailable, Agar may want Sutcliffe in the centres.
Once upon a time Warrington’s star halfback even scoring in a Grand Final for Warrington against Leeds playing seven, Richie Myler was brought to Headingley as a scrum-half but has evolved into one of the best fullbacks in the league in recent years and is now considered more of a one than a six these days especially after registering 16 assists from fullback in 2021. However, with Jack Walker now fit again, it’s possible that Agar could move the experienced Myler to six knowing Walker can step in at fullback.
Or vice versa, Jack Walker could make his return to the side at stand-off. Jack Walker played a lot of junior rugby in the halves but hasn’t played anywhere other than fullback since a hat-trick on debut against Doncaster in 2017. He has all the attributes to be effective at six and playing him in the halves could be a way of reintroducing him to the starting side without isolating him at fullback.
The only other natural halfback in Leeds’ squad is 17-year-old Jack Sinfield. A superb goal kicker, he has the makings of a brilliant halfback especially if you look back at the assist he registered in the friendly victory over Bradford as well as the way he carried himself against Wakefield on Boxing Day when he came on playing a part in a superb try for Tom Briscoe. Not afraid to take on the line, he could be the answer to Leeds’ problem. That said, it may be considered too big of a risk to ask him to debut in a Super League opener against a huge rival.