Leeds Rhinos can’t catch a break at the moment.
Last night the Rhinos produced their best performance in weeks and it appeared to be leading them to victory over the high flying Huddersfield Giants as they led 20-10 with just over two minutes remaining.
However, a late flurry from the Giants saw them send the game to golden point which still couldn’t separate the two with the match ending in the first Headingley draw since 2018.
To make matters worse, Leeds now have to face Castleford on Monday and will do so without Jack Walker. The fullback has been slowly improving over recent weeks after his return from a year long injury but was forced off inside the first half with Liam Sutcliffe moving from the halves to fullback.
It’s a bitter pill for Walker himself to swallow and frustrating for Leeds fans who in 2021 and 2022 have hoped to see Walker and Richie Myler bring the best out of each other vying for the number one shirt only for one or both to suffer with injury.
After the defeat to Huddersfield, interim Head Coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan gave an update on Walker and how he will deal with the fullback spot in his absence and with Myler potentially still unavailable after an injury of his own.
“We talked about how we missed Richie Myler and how significant the fullback role is,” Buchanan said, “And he [Jack Walker] has had a pretty significant twang on his hamstring. We’ll have to scan that in the next couple of days. I’m trying to articulate how important it is he keeps his head up.
“Liam Sutcliffe is more than capable at fullback. He’s exceptional with the ball in his hands, it doesn’t mean he’ll lose much from his game. It does mean maybe Kruise Leeming or maybe we’ll get Aidan Sezer back in at halfback.”
Curious that Buchanan has stated Aidan Sezer could return despite talk that Sezer could be out for another three-four weeks. Will the Rhinos rush him back or settle on Leeming there after he played so well in the role last season?
Another option could be young Jack Sinfield. The young halfback has been playing really well for the Leeds academy and was the hero as Leeds’ under 18s beat Wigan in a curtain raiser before Leeds’ clash with Huddersfield.
Buchanan spoke about whether young Sinfield would be ready to play Super League rugby: “I’d love for Jack to be an option. You’re always thinking about his dad because he’s in his image because he’s the double of him in everything that he does. I’ve admired Kev for years and I look Jack and think wow. When Jack does something that Kev doesn’t do like forget his diary I’m like ‘Jack don’t forget your diary’ but at the same time I’m like ‘he’s not Kev.’ He’s got to be Jack Sinfield, he’s got to be somebody different.
“As much as we love Kev, he’s got to be his own man and he’s come up with some special moments today and I’m really pleased for him.
“He’s working really hard, physically he’s a young man and he’s going to be a gem and we don’t want to break him. We’ve got to be careful with Jack.”
Another option Buchanan could consider is playing Jack Broadbent at fullback. The highly rated youngster played there a lot last season as he proved to be a real bright spark for Leeds in 2021. However, he has been out of favour for much of 2022 and was even left out of the side yesterday despite an opening at centre with Alex Mellor playing there instead.
Buchanan explained this decision yesterday: “He [Broadbent] needs to keep developing and growing. We have a great history of top centres and Jack’s a great player and has a real aptitude for learning and he had some amazing games last year. I just felt he’s been a tiny bit off the mark, off the standard. Where we’ve been we just needed a bit of solidarity and consistency and Alex Mellor will give you that all day long.”
This may mean we won’t see Broadbent fill the hole in Leeds’ side on Monday or the near future.