Liam Sutcliffe chasing regular halfback spot at Leeds

At the tender age of 22, Liam Sutcliffe has enjoyed success many could only dream to achieve during the entirety of their career, yet alone after just 76 Super League appearances.

But at the same time, Sutcliffe still has so much to achieve.

His exclusion from Leeds’ Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final winning squads leave him without the taste of victory on the big stage.

When he has been relied on, he has at times come in for criticism, none more so than during the club’s terrible run at the start of 2016.

And, perhaps most pressingly standing in the way of Sutcliffe’s ambition to become the next Leeds great, he has yet to nail down a position in the Rhinos setup.

Sutcliffe has played fullback, stand-off and loose-forward during the first stage of his career, but the constant reshuffling has almost made him feel like a handyman in Brian McDermott’s plans going forward. Stevie Ward was trusted with the number 13 jersey following Kevin Sinfield’s retirement, while Ashton Golding was the preferred choice to take the number 1 shirt left unassigned following Zak Hardaker’s departure.

At halfback, the old guard, Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow, remain key to Leeds’ hopes. Yes, injuries and suspensions make Sutcliffe valuable, but where does he fit long-term.

Sutcliffe himself knows exactly where he sees himself playing. Halfback has always been his preferred position, and his goal this year is to nail down a regular position in the pivots. In doing so, however, he must dislodge a partnership with 749 games of Super League experience.

It’s an unenviable task, but one Sutcliffe is ready to battle.

“It’s going to be a tough task to get in the team,” he said.

“Especially with what they have done in the game, it’s very tough.

“But I don’t think about that to be honest. I just try to concentrate on myself in training and my role in the team. Hopefully I can pull it off on the back of that.

“I want to be the starting halfback in the team. At the end of the day if you play well and train well you have a chance of being in the team. I’m not really thinking about taking their position as Rob and Mags are fantastic for our team and a great asset for the club. I’m just trying to work my way in.

“But hopefully I can train well enough and stake my claim to be the starting halfback.”

Jordan Lilley and Cory Aston are two other young halfbacks vying for a way into the Rhinos team, but Sutcliffe believes the competition is crucial for all of their development.

“It’s only going to make us work and train harder because we’re under pressure to perform every week. We’ve that many players that if you have a bad game you know you’ll be dropped the next week. We’re all training well and working hard.”