Super League: Why Leeds Rhinos coach is looking forward to 2022 after “torrid” year

LEEDS RHINOS showed “a lot of fight and effort” during a “torrid” 2021 campaign, coach Richard Agar says.

Rhinos finished fifth in the Betfred Super League table and went on to reach the play-off semi-finals - one game away from Old Trafford - before being beaten at eventual champions St Helens.

They were also fifth in the regular season last year - when they won the Challenge Cup - but had a better win percentage in 2020 - 58.82 compared to this season’s 54.17.

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However, Leeds played seven more games in 2021 and had a great number of injuries and Agar feels there are positives to take from 2021.

Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar, pictured left with assistant Sean Long, is envisaging a less torrid Super League season in 2022. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia.

Assessing Rhinos’ season as a whole, the coach, who has been in charge since May, 2019, admitted: “It depends how you are judging it – you have to put it in the context of the problems we had to ride throughout the year.”

He reflected: “It has been a torrid year.

“It is very hard to say if you are happy or not happy but I think, with the amount of problems and difficulties we had, to end up 80 minutes away from the Grand Final showed a lot of fight and effort.

“The guys hung in there and showed some resilience.

Quality Leeds Rhinos addition, former Warrington Wolves half-back Blake Austin. Picture: Paul Currie/SWpix.com.

“Ultimately I was deflated about the way we performed at Saints [in the semi-final] because we needed to get our best performance out.

“Would our best performance have been good enough to beat Saints’ best performance on the night?

“Maybe not, and I think that lets us know we are still on a journey to try and chase the top team in the competition.

“But we’ve seen the emergence of our juniors, the senior players are good guys and I still think there’s a lot of potential in this squad that can make more strides next year.”

Quality Leeds Rhinos addition, former St Helens player James Bentley. Picture: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

Other than players on international duty, Rhinos are now on their autumn break before pre-season begins next month.

Agar feels foundations are in place for a better campaign in 2022.

“We don’t think we are in a position where we need to rip it up and start again,” he insisted.

“We think our progress is good.

Quality Leeds Rhinos addition, former Huddersfield Giants playmaker Aidan Sezer. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.k.

“Our younger players are getting better and turning into real stars in some cases.

“We like the depth of our squad and we are bringing in quality next year, in key positions.

“James Bentley is a terrific player and the halves we are bringing in [Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin] are both excellent players who will give us some depth and different styles of play there. All in all, you have got to be pragmatic when you assess this year, not simply based on league position.”

Rhinos have not finished among Super League’s leading quartet since 2017, when they were runners-up to Castleford Tigers in the table, but went on to win the Grand Final.

Agar stressed: “Our aim is to build a club that’s never out of the top four. [Rhinos] have spent a bit of time in the bottom four, but we want to be up there, making sure we can challenge on both fronts every year.

“I think we are working our way nicely towards that. Are we quite at where Saints are?

“Clearly not, based on what we saw in the semi-final, but we need to keep trying to close that gap and making sure we are up there with the top teams year in and year out.”