EXCITED Liam Sutcliffe hopes to “really cement” the centre role and complete his transition from stand-off after being handed the Leeds Rhinos No4 jersey for 2018.
The talented 22-year-old emerged through the club’s academy as a goal-kicking half-back and was initially tipped to eventually replace Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield.
However, he was used predominantly as a centre last term, showing great potential on the left edge alongside England winger Ryan Hall, going on to win his first Grand Final as Leeds beat Castleford Tigers.
Instead, it was Joel Moon who switched from centre to stand-off and it looks likely the Australian will continue in that playmaker role for Brian McDermott’s side next term.
Rhinos new squad numbers are revealed today and it sees him swap No4 for the No6 jersey vacated by captain Danny McGuire’s move to Hull KR.
Predictably, new signing Richie Myler, the ex-England scrum-half who joins from Catalans Dragons, claims Rob Burrow’s No7 shirt after the Rhinos icon retired while Brad Dwyer takes Sutcliffe’s previous No14 jersey after his arrival from Warrington Wolves and incoming Gold Coast Titans prop Nathaniel Peteru is No21.
I’ve been given the four shirt and it’s something I’m really looking forward to going into next year with. Hopefully, I can really cement that centre position now.Leeds Rhinos’ Liam Sutcliffe
On his own promotion, Sutcliffe said: “It came as a bit of a surprise when I was first told.
“I wasn’t really expecting it. I was expecting just still to be number 14 so I’m really over the moon to have the number four shirt as well.
“Obviously I played centre for a fair bit of the season last year and I suppose it is a reward for that.
“I’ve been given the four shirt and it’s something I’m really looking forward to going into next year with.
“Hopefully, I can really cement that centre position now.”
Sutcliffe – who has also played full-back and loose-forward for his hometown club – admitted it is reassuring to now have a level of certainty about where he will be operating in 2018.
He said: “It will help. Me and Brian had a lot of talks going forward on what position I wanted to play. I told him I really wanted to nail down a set position.
“Going into pre-season I can really focus on the stuff where I’m not so good at centre and really try and improve in that role.”
Sutcliffe scored 10 tries and 64 goals in 28 games during Leeds’ title-winning campaign and signed a new four-year deal in September.
Having missed out on the 2015 Grand Final win, he believes he will have added confidence going into next season as a champion for the first time.
“I think everyone will,” said Sutcliffe. “I remember last year it was a bit doom and gloom coming into pre-season after the season we’d just had.
“But this time I think everyone will still be bouncing after this year’s achievements and we’ll all want to rip in and go again next year.”
Ireland prop Brad Singleton also earns an elevation following a strong campaign as he moves from No16 to No10, Adam Cuthbertson switches from ten to eight, Keith Galloway shifting to No 20 as he recovers from Achilles surgery.
Anthony Mullally is promoted from No20 to No16.
Rhinos squad list: 1 Golding 2 Briscoe 3 Watkins 4 L Sutcliffe 5 Hall 6 Moon 7 Myler 8 Cuthbertson 9 Parcell 10 Singleton 11 Jones-Buchanan 12 Ablett 13 Ward 14 Dwyer 15 Delaney 16 Mullally 17 Garbutt 18 Keinhorst 19 Ferres 20 Galloway 21 Peteru 22 Handley 23 Ormondroyd 24 Walker 25 Lilley 26 Newman 27 Smith 28 Oledzki 29 Jordan-Roberts 30 Walters 31 A Sutcliffe.