Predicting what Leeds Rhinos’ squad will look like in 2023

This article may seem premature, but with the news of two signings this week in Justin Sangare and James McDonnell coupled with a massive win against Wigan, the horizon hasn’t looked this bright at Headingley for some time.

So, this got us thinking about the next stage in Rohan Smith’s Rhinos revolution and what the Leeds squad could look like next year.

A lot could change from now until the start of next season, but we’ve still had a good stab at this and made some interesting calls.

1 Zak Hardaker
2 David Fusitu’a
3 Harry Newman
4 Liam Sutcliffe
5 Ash Handley
6 Blake Austin
7 Aidan Sezer
8 Mikolaj Oledzki
9 Kruise Leeming
10 Matt Prior
11 James Bentley
12 Rhyse Martin
13 Cameron Smith
14 Jarrod O’Connor
15 *New Signing*
16 Richie Myler
17 Zane Tetevano
18 Tom Holroyd
19 James McDonnell
20 Derrell Olpherts – TBC
21 Morgan Gannon
22 Sam Walters
23 Justin Sangare
24 Corey Johnson
25 James Donaldson
26 Levi Edwards
27 Liam Tindall
28 Max Simpson
29 Jack Sinfield

Analysis

The first thing that jumps out is of course Zak Hardaker in the number one shirt. Now Jack Walker could very well stay at Headingley beyond this season and I’d be very happy if he did, but the way things are going and how influential Hardaker and Richie Myler have been in recent weeks, it seems unlikely that Walker will stay especially with Hull opting to move Jamie Shaul out on loan recently prioritising Jack Walker.

This seems to hint that they want to invest in Jack and with Walker enjoying his time there reportedly, it could be the right move for all parties.

This doesn’t necessarily mean I think Hardaker will be the first choice fullback, that may well be Myler still. But I do think he’ll take the number one shirt that he vacated back in 2016.

The next interesting call comes at the four shirt. Liam Sutcliffe has long been rumoured to be leaving but this hasn’t materialised as yet and his brilliant performances should have cemented his spot in the squad for next year from my point of view.

If he was to be moved on to open up space for a top tier prop forward, considering Hardaker’s ability to play centre and the young centres at the club, you couldn’t argue too much with this.

The rest of the current first 13 squad numbers all seem to have secure futures at Headingley but I could see Cameron Smith taking the 13 shirt from Zane Tetevano given his recent performances.

The number 15 shirt is presently vacant and I think this will go to a new signing. Now it may go to someone like Justin Sangare but I foresee Leeds bringing in another prop hopefully a high profile one who can take the shirt number on next year with Sangare keeping the number 23 that he wears at Toulouse which was vacated by Jack Broadbent.

Meanwhile, the number 14 shirt is set to be left behind by Brad Dwyer and Jarrod O’Connor’s brilliant performances as a back up nine will likely see him take this shirt number on next year.

Bodene Thompson’s number 19 jersey could go to new recruit James McDonnell who will likely play a similar role to Thompson in the squad given they both prefer backrow as their position but can fill in elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Tom Briscoe is also likely to leave at the end of the year with Derrell Olpherts his rumoured replacement. Olpherts scored four tries last night for the Tigers and would be a great option in the number 20 shirt.

Corey Johnson could move up to the number 24 shirt like previous hookers Paul McShane and Liam Hood who have worn it with the likes of Levi Edwards, Liam Tindall and Jack Sinfield moving down the squad numbers to complete the squad.

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