Leeds Rhinos: A New Golden Era?
"To build champions you have to take risks."
Dave Furner came into the 2019 Super League season well aware of the narrative for the season, to get Leeds Rhinos back into Grand Final contention, and to help develop the potential in some of their special youngsters.
To build champions you have to take risks, Leeds Rhinos have been champions, eight-time Super League champions and three-time Champions of the World. Leeds’ first Super League title, Dave Furner started at loose forward, youngsters; Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Ryan Bailey, risks worth taking, were all involved.
The five youngsters, looking at their names now, they’re champions. In 2004, they all had potential. The oldest, Sinfield, made his debut at 16; by 2004 he was only 23, but he’d been around the block, Ryan Bailey the youngest of the five made his debut in 2002, while, McGuire, Burrow and JJB had all made their debuts in the years between ’97 and ’02.
In that ’04 championship winning side Sinfield kicked four goals, while McGuire scored a try – he’s no longer present at Leeds – Sinfield; one of Headingley’s enamoured stars is in a different role, he’s trying to restore the clubs fortunes as director of Rugby, while his former team mate Furner leads Rhinos from the side-lines.
JJB and Burrow are still involved at Headingley, albeit in a different capacity, JJB is still part of the playing squad, although it appears that his time on the pitch is coming to an end, while Burrow is looking to produce the next Sinfield, McGuire, or even for one of the youngsters to imitate himself as he leads the Under-19’s academy.
Jack Walker, he’s been around for a few years now, but he’s still only 19, the youngster made his debut back in 2017 in the Challenge Cup scoring a hat-trick. In Rhinos’ most recent fixture, he again scored a hat-trick from full-back against Salford Red Devils, to seal Dave Furner’s first win of the season.
It was an impressive performance from Leeds who had lost their first two games against Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors, the side looked more fluid and with new signings Tui Lolohea, Konrad Hurrell and Trent Merrin adapting to England and Super League, Rhinos could maintain a challenge for the top five.
With a host of homegrown players accompanied by the new NRL signings, Leeds will be hoping to imitate Rhinos of the past, this year may be too much to ask, but given time and a transitional period, a blend of youth and stars, like before, could see a new golden era for Leeds Rhinos.