The Garry Schofield Column: Leeds Rhinos are failing on recruitment – while Hull KR lead the way

RECRUITMENT? What recruitment?

Gary Hetherington says Leeds are working hard to improve their squad for next season, but supporters want to see action, not talk, from the Headingley string-puller.

I went to the recent clash with Warrington and witnessed a meeting of two very ordinary teams.

Yes, Leeds won, but it was a distinctly underwhelming victory, and it wouldn’t have happed had Warrington not wasted a stack of try-scoring opportunities.  

Warrington have Sam Burgess coming in next season as the latest coach to try and bring some silverware to the great under-achievers.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, it’s a bold appointment and also a bit of a gamble, but at least they are taking it.

In addition, they snapped their losing sequence with a decent victory at Hull on Saturday.

Leeds have signed Lachie Miller, a player hardly anyone has heard of, having previously brought in Catalans forward Mickael Goudemand.

Maybe fullback Miller, who apparently played rugby union before spells at Cronulla Sharks and his current club Newcastle Knights, is an unpolished diamond.

But without some significant additional signings, he and Goudemand have got their work cut out to significantly improve the current group.

Let’s face it, since even before Leeds’ last Grand Final success in 2017, recruitment has been poor.

Not enough real quality has been brought in, and the big-name players who have been signed, such as Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, have neither dovetailed nor delivered. The club has been on a downward spiral for some time now.

I hear lots of talk of development from coach Rohan Smith, but Leeds Rhinos aren’t a development club.

Yes, producing and nurturing players is an important part of any successful operation, but ‘part’ is the key word. There has to be more besides.

In my opinion, Leeds are the biggest and best supported club in the game, and as such should be able to attract, and fund, some of the biggest names in the game and get back to being in trophy contention on a consistent basis.

Hull KR on the rise

WHILE Leeds supporters are concerned, along the M62 at Hull KR, fans must be encouraged after Castleford fullback Niall Evalds became the latest addition to Willie Peters’ player pool.

He’ll add skill, speed and experience to an already-decent squad which will also be improved by the arrival of Catalans halfback Tyrone May, former Wigan centre Oliver Gildart from Dolphins, Peta Hiku, the versatile North Queensland Cowboys and New Zealand back and up-and-coming second row AJ Wallace, who, having left Leeds, where he came through the Academy, has come on nicely over at Bradford.

It’s a good example of combining developing players with proven products, which is what I think Leeds should be doing far more of.

And after reaching the Challenge Cup Final, Rovers will be out to make the play-offs this year, then take further steps next season.

Friday’s convincing win over their Challenge Cup conquerors Leigh moved them a step closer to ending this season in the six, and it would be good to see them involved. 

There are definite signs of progress at Craven Park, with Rovers now a team who look capable of competing for trophies, and credit to Neil Hudgell for his persistence in pushing the club forward at a sensible and sustainable pace.

The Super League table isn’t too rosy for us Tykes, and before the latest round (23), the bottom six were all from Yorkshire.

Hopefully that will be different by round 27, and also next season, with both Rovers and Hull FC, where Tony Smith will have had more of a chance to put his stamp on things (we all knew it would take him a bit of time), maybe the best bets to be challenging more strongly.

Hull host Leeds in a meeting of my former clubs on Saturday, and after losing to Warrington, I think they’ll respond with a seven-point victory.

Meanwhile I see Rovers winning by ten against Catalans on Friday in what should be an interesting clash at Craven Park.

The Dragons had an off day at home to Wigan, and while I’m predicting another defeat, I’m certainly not writing them off when it comes to the play-offs, because they have too much class in the ranks.

For Wigan, even if they didn’t have to play that well, it was a case of putting down a marker, with Bevan French in fine fettle, and I reckon they’ll follow up by beating Salford by 16 at the DW Stadium on Friday.

I’m going Leigh by 14 at home to Huddersfield on Friday, while I can’t see the situation at the bottom of the table changing, other than Wakefield having a round less in which to pull off what looks an extremely unlikely survival act.

I’m predicting Warrington by 18 at home to Castleford on Saturday and St Helens by 26 at Wakefield on Sunday.