Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has insisted that the club are not trying to replace Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peaock and Kylie Leuluai – because they have to try and evolve, not revolve.
Sinfield is now playing rugby union with Yorkshire Carnegie whilst Peacock and Leuluai have retired from playing completely, and as the Rhinos kick off the defence of their Super League title tonight against Warrington, the question is being asked as to how the Rhinos can replace three legends of the game.
But McDermott says that the club have to move on – and that they can’t afford to attempt to replace three players who are essentially irreplaceable.
“The danger is that we go about things in the same manner and try and replace them with Keith Galloway or Beau Falloon, and it doesn’t work like that,” he said.
“In my time as Leeds coach, Danny Buderus has retired, Keith Senior has retired, Ali Lauitiiti has left and every time those three legendary players moved on, people have asked how we replace them.
“Well you don’t – and you don’t try. You recruit, progress, evolve and find a slightly different way of doing things.
“I’m not going to compare anyone to Sinfield or Peacock – they’re both freaks. Kylie Leuluai has his own little niche in that he was the longest serving and most successful overseas player in Rugby League for Leeds Rhinos.”
One player who will step in tonight is young half-back Liam Sutcliffe – and McDermott says that he’s excited to see his development continue this year as he returns from a lengthy injury lay-off.
“He was a big part of the reason why we were good last year,” McDermott admits.
“Offensively he was a big part of how we were playing. In some of our best games offensively last season Sutty and Maggsy (Danny McGuire) were our starting halfback pairing. We certainly missed him when he was injured, and we had to adapt and evolve and Kev came back into the team and we pushed on.
“We rate him and I think he’ll go well again this year.
“We played really well when he was starting six – he brings that running game into our offence rather than the catch, pass and put on the play halfbacks that you get nowadays.”