Jamie Jones-Buchanan uses St Helens as the benchmark for Leeds Rhinos

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Super League has been dominated by two clubs.

At first the competition belonged to St Helens who won the first Super League in 1996 and became the first club to retain the title in 2000.

However, a crop of outstanding youngsters at Leeds catalysed a power shift which saw Leeds win eight titles in 14 seasons four of which came at the expense of St Helens as Leeds became the league’s most successful club.

However, since 2017 the Rhinos have struggled to maintain that success not once finishing inside the top four in the five years following their last Grand Final win. In that time, St Helens have won three consecutive titles as well as the Challenge Cup replacing Leeds as the competition’s most successful club.

What’s interesting is comparing the two clubs after their most successful periods. Saints went eight years without a title from 2006-14 and five years after that before winning another in 2019 meaning in the time from 2007-18 they only won one title. However, in that period the lowest they finished was fifth. Conversely, the highest Leeds have finished since 2017 is fifth demonstrating the ability of the Saints to maintain a stable club even during seasons of transition whereas Leeds have been unable to do that themselves.

Right now, the Rhinos are at a real low with just one win from their opening eight games in league and cup with a 26-0 defeat to the Saints only adding to their recent woes. With a search for a new coach underway, it highlighted the changes needed at Headingley if Leeds want to build a new dynasty and interim Head Coach and seven-time Super League Champion with the Rhinos Jamie Jones-Buchanan identified this after Friday’s game whilst also explaining why he thinks St Helens are the best team in the competition at present.

“I’ve already acknowledged the gravity of the situation; it’s horrendous,” Buchanan said of Leeds’ current plight, “But I know what this group can do in half a season, a quarter of a season. We’re not going to set ourselves on fire yet. I think it’s important that we don’t panic and we hold our nerve. There’s loads that we need to fix up.

“You look at a team like St Helens, I don’t think they’re that good because of what they did in pre-season just gone. They’re good because they’ve been building on seasons and compounding what’s good about their environment and their culture.

“I’m fed up about talking about culture. Culture is all about the people who occupy the building, the building itself is almost irrelevant. What we need to do is start compounding some behaviours that Morgan Gannon and some of those young blokes can hold and preserve and in five or six years time they’ll be having those dynasties where they’re competing in finals.

“We’ve got every resource that we need in this building, all the answers are in here we just need to pick them out and get the boys to believe and buy into it.”

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