Leeds Rhinos are set to announce their new Head Coach this week.
The Rhinos have had Leeds legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan in charge as interim Head Coach since the defeat to Salford and sit 11th in the league with just one win and one draw to their name so far this season.
They face a huge game against Castleford on Easter Monday as they look to generate some much needed momentum and pull themselves away from the bottom of the table.
It’s clear that there’s a big job needed at Headingley with the Rhinos not fulfilling their potential as they remain well off the high standards being set by Champions St Helens which is ultimately where the eight-time Grand Final winners want to get to. Whoever is appointed will have a big job on their hands from the start with a number of decisions required where player retention is concerned.
Leeds have seven players still set to come off contract at the end of 2022 many of whom are first team regulars or have been during their time at Headingley. In fact, four of them played the last time Leeds won silverware in the 2020 Challenge Cup Final.
In the next few weeks, the deadline for Leeds to have first dibs on these players will pass and other Super League clubs will be able to approach them with their own offers for 2023 and beyond meaning whoever comes in as Head Coach will be forced to make some big calls on the futures of some high-profile Leeds players.
Here’s all seven players and the conundrums facing whoever the new man in charge at Headingley will be:
One of Leeds’ major signings going into 2022, the Rhinos curiously only gave him a one-year deal. Now in his 30s, Austin is nearing the end of his career but still has some quality years left him but the decision for the new Head Coach is whether the Australian is the man to take Leeds forward. It’s safe to say Austin’s partnership with Aidan Sezer hasn’t worked thus far but Austin has been admirable in his effort and the way he still tests defences with his running game. In Sezer’s absence recently, he’s taken on the role or organiser and done it well alongside Liam Sutcliffe. From Austin’s perspective, does he want to start a new project at Leeds at this stage of his career or would he like to go home with reported interest from NRL’s new club the Dolphins earlier this year.
Rhyse Martin has perhaps been Leeds’ best player in 2022 and has five tries to his name in all competitions. By his own admission he wants to stay and should based on form but should the new man in charge want to use his quota spots for new arrivals a doubt may loom over Martin who certainly deserves a new contract.
Along with fellow number nine Kruise Leeming, Brad Dwyer was one of Leeds’ best players in 2021 and was one of their leading scorers too. Dynamic out of dummyhalf, he’s the perfect super sub. However, in the final year of his deal, a decision is needed on whether Leeds want to stick with the Leeming-Dwyer combo or trust young Corey Johnson moving forward.
Alex Mellor was one of Leeds’ major signings going into 2020 and helped deliver the Challenge Cup. As he was building momentum in 2021, an injury ended his season prematurely and the arrival of James Bentley this year has pushed him down the pecking order. The presence of Morgan Gannon in the Leeds squad also puts doubts over Mellor’s future with a reported interest from Hull FC. He did produce a very solid display at centre for Leeds on Thursday and is a very honest hard-working player who may fit the identity of the Leeds team the new man wants to build.
Bodene Thompson was brought in to do a job in 2020 and cover Leeds’ backrow as they struggled with injuries after lockdown. He did that and helped the Rhinos deal with two games in a week during the compact, Covid hit season. Since then he’s evolved into a 13 and now a prop but nearing the end of his career, Leeds may want a younger more natural prop in place of Thompson who hasn’t played in weeks.
An underrated player who should be regarded as a Leeds Rhinos hero helping them win the treble in 2015 and a scorer of a brace in the 2017 Grand Final, Briscoe has been key to Leeds’ success in five major finals since 2014 but as his career comes to an end so might his time with the Rhinos as they try to nurture the next group of exciting young players.
Last year, Jack Broadbent was one of Leeds’ best performers and even scored four tries in one game against Leigh. An exciting young prospect, he’s been out of favour all season and was even left out of the game against Huddersfield on Thursday despite their being an opening at centre. He’ll be hoping the arrival of a new coach will rekindle his Leeds career.