Leeds Rhinos: Rising all-rounder Jack Broadbent targets Grand Final

LONG-TERM GAIN sometimes comes from short-term pain and that could prove to be the legacy Leeds Rhinos take out of a difficult 2021 season.

AIMING HIGH: Leeds Rhinos' Jack Broadbent scores his team's fifth try against Salford in June this year. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com
AIMING HIGH: Leeds Rhinos' Jack Broadbent scores his team's fifth try against Salford in June this year. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com

Leeds achieved, to an extent, qualifying for the Super League play-offs and matching last year’s fifth-place finish on the league table.

They had hoped for more after a year of progress in 2020, but literally from the opening day of pre-season, a remarkable run of misfortune held them back.

The pectoral muscle injury suffered by Luke Gale in the club’s first training session, last winter, set the tone for what was a year-long injury crisis which the experienced Richard Agar has described as the worst of his coaching career.

However, with the play-offs about to begin this week, Leeds are still in with a chance, if a remote one, of a ninth Super League title.

And while they have been without many of their star names for long periods, that gave an opportunity to some young players who stepped up and proved they belong on the big stage.

Among them is 20-year-old Jack Broadbent, who has at various times played full-back, centre, wing and in the halves, running over for nine tries in 14 appearances.

He may well have ended the year as Leeds’ top scorer, but for a two-month injury lay-off and his ability to slot into a variety of different roles has made him a key member of Agar’s squad, less than a year after his Rhinos debut.

ANY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE: Jack Broadbent has shown his versatility by playing in a number of different positions this season. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Unlike some players, Broadbent is happy to carry the ‘utility’ tag, if it means he plays every week.

“I don’t know how many positions I’ve played, maybe four or five different roles,” said the former Batley Boys and Dewsbury Moor youngster, who is in contention for his first play-off appearance when Rhinos visit Wigan Warriors in two days’ time.

“Having that utility value can get you game time.

“If I was an out and out centre, I probably wouldn’t be playing in these games because we’ve got three strong centres back available.

“That versatility is getting me a spot in the team and it’s something I’ll try and keep and build on.

“Game time is always good for you as a player, I didn’t play my best game against St Helens (two games ago) but I worked hard in the week and feel like I made some improvements and I just want to keep building on that.”

As a team, Rhinos responded to their 40-6 drubbing at St Helens in impressive fashion, with a 36-12 defeat of Hull KR last Friday.

That ensured they will travel to Wigan, who were fourth on the league table, this week, rather than third-placed Warrington Wolves.

Unless Hull KR can upset Warrington, the winners of Thursday’s game will travel to league leaders Catalans Dragons for a semi-final next week.

It is a tall order for Leeds, but Broadbent feels they are capable of going all the way to Old Trafford on Saturday, October 9.

Leeds have won the title twice from fifth place on the league ladder, in 2011 and 2012 and Broadbent believes they have already upset the odds to get as high this season.

“If you think about some of the hardships we’ve had and the way we’ve stuck together through everything that’s been thrown at us, I think it’s a massive achievement,” said Broadbent of Leeds’ league placing.

“It shows we are ready for play-off footy.

“Leeds are renowned for getting the last four weeks of the season right.

“We want to be as ruthless as we can and we think we can go all the way.

“We went to Wigan (a month ago) and kept them scoreless, not many teams do that.

“We are full of confidence going into this game and we’re not bothered who we play – we’ve gone away to Warrington and won and gone away to Wigan and won.

“We just feel like we can get the job done, no matter who we are playing.

“We are 160 minutes away from a Grand Final and we are going to put it all out there.”

Rhinos had prepared for the Hull KR game to be a do or die.

Castleford Tigers’ defeat by Warrington the previous evening meant Leeds had already qualified for the play-offs before kick-off, but Broadbent reckons they have effectively been playing sudden-death rugby for several weeks.

“We didn’t want to go to play Wigan or Warrington after a loss,” he said.

“We can find little things to build on, but we’ve got a base to kick on from. I thought we controlled the game really well, they threw everything at us for the best part of the last 20 minutes, but we handled it really well.

“They got a late try and I think we could have stopped it, so we will look at that.”