For Saturday’s seismic clash against rivals Castleford Tigers at the Magic Weekend, Leeds boss Rohan Smith was only able to name a 20-man squad.
Leeds’ squad was already thread bare with Harry Newman, Zane Tetevano and Bodene Thompson all suspended and Jack Walker joining Hull FC on loan.
Meanwhile, the Rhinos have been without two-time Grand Final winner Tom Briscoe for a long spell. However, things were compounded by the loss of Kruise Leeming to a foot injury with the Leeds skipper not included in the Rhinos’ squad for the game against the Tigers.
When it came to naming a 17 on the day, Leeds were down to their last 17 available adults with the only two players fit and not selected for the game being teenagers Max Simpson and Jack Sinfield due to a calf injury picked up by Blake Austin with the player being ruled out as early as Thursday at training Rohan Smith confirmed.
Making matters worse, Leeds lost Zak Hardaker to a thigh injury during the contest making a nervous wait until Saturday’s game against Toulouse – a must win game against an in form side.
So, with a number of concerns here’s everything we know about every injury:
When the team was announced, Austin’s injury was described by the club as a “minor lower leg injury.” Then pre-game Rohan Smith said, “He’s got a bit of a calf issue. He should be back next week. It’s pretty precautionary.”
After the match, Smith’s description made it sound a little worse with him admitting he knew in his gut days prior to the game that Austin would not play and that was confirmed at training on Thursday. The fact he was included in the 20-man squad suggests that if Leeds had been desperate he would have played.
From what Smith has said on the injury it does seem that Austin will be back for Saturday’s game against Toulouse but if there’s one thing we’ve learnt it’s that you should never count your chickens in this sport.
On this Smith said “It won’t be too long term, hopefully it turns around okay. Those ones are always hard to tell. He’s in a fair bit of pain right now.”
He also revealed that the knock occurred at the start of the game and Hardaker made the decision himself to suggest the substitution to avoid being a passenger. However, forgive me if I don’t believe Rohan on this one but it seemed Hardaker was carrying the injury into the game given the brace on his leg. It seems like Leeds took a risk on him here suggesting he was in a better way before the game than Austin but now it may be the other way around.
He now seems to be a significant doubt for the trip to Toulouse.
The skipper’s injury was revealed when Smith named his 20-man squad but fell into that vague area between Smith’s pre-match and post-match press conferences so little has been said on the matter.
We know it’s a foot injury and it doesn’t appear to be that serious largely because Smith seemed to imply on Thursday morning in his pre-match press conference that he would be checking on the fitness of a few players likely meaning Leeming himself.
Thus, it seems like he was not too far off making the 21-man squad and may return this week.
Leeds lost one of their experienced players the last time they met Toulouse as Briscoe poached his 199 career try but it’s been a long wait for the winger/centre in terms of getting an opportunity to score his 200th.
Briscoe suffered a leg injury on that occasion despite not being touched by an opposition player which is always a bad sign.
However, it is rumoured that he is nearing fitness once again. That said, it’s possible we could have seen Briscoe’s last game with Leeds with some reports suggesting Leeds are looking to offload him at least at the end of the season but possibly before that.
What does this mean?
Many expected Leeds to make a move in the transfer market as soon as Jack Walker left but that hasn’t happened yet.
The Rhinos are still being tipped to put the cap space to good use by maybe bringing in an extra forward and surely these injuries should be accelerating the process.
When asked about this on Saturday, Smith said “recruitment is always a pressing issue” with conversations taking place day to day but the outcomes won’t be discussed “until there is an outcome.” So there is nothing concrete yet.