Leeds Rhinos’ five best signings of the last five years

Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com - 15/05/2022 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League Round 12 - Salford Red Devils v Leeds Rhinos - AJ Bell Stadium, Salford, England - Leeds Rhinos' Rhyse Martin

In recent years, there has been plenty of change at Headingley as Leeds go in search of that winning formula again which has mostly alluded them since 2017.

The team has undergone a number of different stages and evolutions including the arrival of four big name signings before the start of this season.

It remains to be seen how that quartet will go on to be remembered, but the recent signs have been promising despite a rough start.

However, plenty of others have since cemented themselves as terrific players at Headingley after signing for the club and are carving out their legacies at Leeds.

But who have been the five best signings Leeds have made in the last five years?

5. Ava Seaumanufagai

This man turned around Leeds’ fortunes in 2019. The Rhinos were struggling especially to match teams in the middle of the field but his arrival helped change that and was the first step in dragging Leeds away from relegation in 2019 and to eighth in the league which at one time looked very unlikely.

Of course, others can claim to have had more longevity with the pandemic prompting a move back home after 2020 where he as impressed at Canterbury. However, his instant impact in fending of relegation cannot be understated.

Nor can his role in the 2020 Challenge Cup win. When Zane Tetevano arrived on Christmas Day in 2020, you felt that if Leeds could keep Seaumanufagai as well then Leeds’ pack would be complete. In the end Ava left and I felt Leeds’ development was dealt a significant blow from which they’ve yet to truly recover from.

4. Rob Lui

Like Seaumanufagai, Lui was essential to steering Leeds away from relegation in 2019. Seaumanufagai was the first step as he gave the Rhinos the physicality they needed and Lui was the next step as he gave Leeds the attacking structure they’d lacked till that point.

He scored in his second game with the club and ensured a smooth end to the season. He then went on to form a formidable partnership with Luke Gale in 2020 as they two guided Leeds to Wembley glory and had them playing great rugby pre-pandemic.

Unfortunately, injuries to both meant they only played 12 minutes alongside each other in 2021, but when Lui was around he was exceptional scoring a superb try on his last Headingley appearance.

3. Rhyse Martin

Another of the 2019 mid-season signings, Martin made an instant impact scoring the club’s try of the season shortly after his arrival.

After that he quickly fashioned himself into a key player at the club kicking vital goals but also coming up with big plays. He scored tries in both the Challenge Cup quarter-final and semi-final as Leeds ploughed ahead to Wembley.

In 2021, he got over a difficult start to the year to finish strongly and in 2022 has produced his best form in a Rhinos shirt. Now with six tries in all competitions to his name he has shown his attacking potential in 2022 as well as great versatility playing on both edges as second-row or as a centre. He continues to impress with the boot and be a great leader. He’s set to stick around even longer after signing a new deal recently or should I say Rhysently.

2. Matt Prior

Leeds Player of the Year in 2020, Matt Prior made an instant impact in his first season and was at the heart of the Challenge Cup success that season.

His value can be summed up in his involvement in the set which led to Luke Gale’s winning Wembley drop goal. Prior took two carries that set and made around 30 metres combined from the two as he dragged Leeds within distance to notch the decisive point.

A great defender, I remember when he announced himself to the Leeds fans properly with a thunderous hit on Blake Austin at Headingley. That was one of a number of great showings from the prop perhaps topped by his superheroic showing at the Halliwell Jones Stadium last season where he seemed to produced herculean efforts when down on energy.

He has been key in the development of Mikolaj Oledzki and other forwards and though 2022 hasn’t been as good as his first two seasons in which he was exceptional, Prior has begun finding his form recently with great showings against Hull FC and Castleford.

1. Kruise Leeming

The fact Kruise Leeming was appointed captain at the start of his third season with the club tells you everything you need to know about the former Huddersfield hooker’s impact at the club.

Though his time as a Rhinos got off to a rough start due to injury, he instantly showed when he returned what he would bring the Rhinos down the middle of the field and was excellent in the Challenge Cup semi-final win over Wigan.

In 2021, he was Leeds’ most important player scoring and creating tries at will playing both at nine or in the halves having unearthed a great kicking ability and nailing plenty of 40/20s.

2022 has of course been a rough year, but the way he leads by example has never been in doubt and when things began to tick under Rohan Smith he was at the heart of it especially in the wins over Warrington and Hull FC.

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