Coach Richard Agar says Richard Hunwicks will play a key role in getting Leeds ready for a renewed bid for Super League success.
The Rhinos have brought the experienced and highly-regarded strength and conditioning specialist back to Headingley as performance director.
Hunwicks, who has a master’s degree in performance sport, was at Leeds for seven years up to 2013.
Since then, he has worked with the England team and has spent the last four seasons at this year’s League Leaders’ Shield winners and Grand Finalists Catalans Dragons.
Agar, whose side finished fifth before a play-off semi-final defeat by eventual champions St Helens, said: “Richard has a proven track record of success.
“He is used to working with world-class players and I know he will bring the very best out of our group.”
Hunwicks said: “This is a great opportunity. It is going to be a fresh challenge to help this group of players develop further.
“They are a vibrant squad with a great deal of potential who are a credit to an organisation which continues to produce quality players.
“I have worked with some of them in various England sides and I know the Rhinos mentality will be engrained into them.”
Long-serving backroom team member Jason Davidson has taken on a team management role, while Leeds are in the process of appointing a new physiotherapist.
The Rhinos have signed halfbacks Blake Austin (from Warrington) and Aidan Sezer (Huddersfield) as well as New Zealand Warriors back David Fusitu’a and St Helens second row James Bentley.
Chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “We are pleased with the recruitment and retention we have done to build our squad for next season.
“We are looking forward to an important pre-season with Richard Hunwicks leading our preparations.”
Hetherington has revealed how the Rhinos were able to sign Fusitu’a, which will see the New Zealand Warriors paying part of his salary.
Hetherington credits Agar for getting the deal done, citing his coach’s knowledge of the NRL scene for giving the club the jump on other interested clubs.
“Richard, in addition to his coaching prowess, has a lot of other assets and is particularly well connected, especially in the NRL,” Hetherington said.
“It came to our attention that Fusitu’a could become available. We pursued that and it became more of a reality.
“The only way we can secure top talent from the NRL is if a player’s club is able to assist. We’re not going to compete with the NRL for the top-paid players, so that combination has to come together, and where we’ve been successful in the past is having that sort of arrangement.
“It is when a player is in contract, but for whatever reason, and there can be a multitude of them – an issue with the coach, they may have salary cap issues or they might want to sign another player – there might be a number of reasons why that club is prepared to assist in that player moving on. Those combinations have to come together for us to bring in a top-end NRL player, and all those things aligned to allow us to bring in Fusitu’a.
“It’s similar to how we got Ali Lauitiit’i and a variety of other players in the past, by being assisted by the NRL club. That’s how we have been able to attract top talent. We’ve done it to good effect and done it again in this case. It’s not just good for Leeds Rhinos but also for our competition, a 27-year-old who is a top player.”
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