Rhinos nearing Kirkstall return

Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington is hoping that his club will be back in its Kirkstall training facility within the next month, and he says its loss has had a much bigger impact than anyone thought it would have.

The Rhinos have been without their training base since last December’s floods, which ravaged large parts of West Yorkshire.

But Hetherington told League Express that it should be open again in around four weeks.

“It’s proved to be a much bigger problem than we anticipated,” he said.

“We’ve never been without it in the past, and we have the Rhinos, the Academy set-up and the club’s off-field team too: it was an incredible loss.

“The Leeds Rhinos Foundation have 39 full-time staff who have been all over Headingley, and the Rhinos’ first-team has had to use a whole host of different fields around the city.

“Players have been jumping into cars to do different parts of their day and it’s been totally fragmented.

“It was always envisaged that we’d be back in June but we’re hoping it may be a little earlier than that.”

With the club’s injury problems also impacting on their start to the season, Hetherington was quick to support Brian McDermott and his coaching staff.

He said: “I’ve felt sorry most for the coaching staff, because they’ve not had the players they want training on a regular basis, so they can’t train and prepare in the normal way.

“We’ve had an unprecedented number of injuries in the group, and in every match we’ve had a big chunk of our front-line players missing.

“Brian pointed out that there’s only been a couple of games where we’ve been well beaten, and in every other match we’ve been right in it until the last second. That’s the nature of the competition at the moment; results are crazy, matches are tight and things are incredibly unpredictable.”

However, Hetherington did see one major positive for the club so far in 2016 – the emergence of the next batch of Rhinos stars.

Youngsters like Jordan Lilley, Ash Handley and Ashton Golding have all featured extensively for Leeds so far this year, and Hetherington believes that will stand the club in good stead for the months and years ahead.

“We’ve seen some very good youngsters come in and show themselves to be of Super League standard, and it’s one of the positives to come out of all this,” he said.

“Our first target is to get in the top eight and qualify for the Super 8s. We’ve got our entry into the Challenge Cup coming up as well and there’s a determination from the group to make it three in a row there. There’s a hell of a lot of rugby to be played yet.”