I LIKED Gary Neville as a footballer, and enjoy his work as a pundit – but I don’t want to be echoing his words about Manchester United when it comes to my former team, who I still care deeply about.
Gary recently claimed to have grown tired of his own club and bored by watching them under Erik ten Hag, and there are clear parallels between United and the Rhinos.
Both, for me, are the biggest clubs in the country in their respective spheres, both have glittering histories and big fanbases, and both should be competing for trophies on a regular basis and also bringing entertainment to their supporters – but neither are.
I don’t want any coach to get the axe, but make no mistake about it – like Ian Watson over at neighbours Huddersfield, Rohan Smith really is under pressure to produce at Leeds, and if ten games in, things are looking bleak, Gary Hetherington may have to act.
After that surprise run to the Grand Final in 2022, when he arrived midway through the season, last year was a major letdown, and for Leeds, finishing eighth and going out of the Challenge Cup in round six just isn’t good enough.
I reckon this is one of the most crucial seasons of the Super League era for Leeds, because given the steady rise of old rivals Wigan and Hull KR, the continued presence of St Helens and Catalans, the emergence of Leigh and Warrington’s bid to improve, they have to turn a corner.
The good news is that there have been some quality additions to the squad in Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers. And signing the former, in particular, is a real boon, because halfback has been a problem area.
I think Leeds will make the play-offs, but that on its own isn’t enough.
Leeds Rhinos – 6th