Unlike most Super League seasons, in 2017 there has been very little focus on the Leeds Rhinos, who are quietly going about their business whilst most of the media’s focus is on runaway leaders, Castleford Tigers.
There is no doubt that the Tigers have been Super League’s standout team in 2017, with Daryl Powell’s side playing some of the most attractive rugby of the summer era. The Tigers have also beaten second-placed Leeds on three separate occasions, as they storm towards the League Leaders’ Shield in the Super 8s.
However, with knockout rugby on the horizon, it would be foolish to rule the Rhinos out of the race for silverware just yet, with Brian McDermott’s side the masters of winning at Old Trafford.
Leeds’ last Super League title came in 2015, but despite McDermott’s side sitting pretty in the Super League, they remain at 4.33 on bet365’s rugby betting page to win an eighth Grand Final in the summer era.
Castleford are clear favourites to lift the trophy later in 2017, but Leeds still possess bags of experience within their side, with Jamie Jones Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow all part of the club’s golden generation that have dominated Super League for the last 13 years.
McGuire and Burrow are both ending their long association with the Rhinos at the conclusion of the 2017 season, but after their Leeds’ Challenge Cup semi final defeat to Hull FC and Castleford expected to win the League Leaders’ Shield, the duo will be desperate to finish their Leeds career with silverware, by winning an eighth Grand Final ring at Old Trafford.
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) August 10, 2017
The duo still have a vital role to play for Leeds, particularly McGuire, who is the club’s captain. However, McDermott will be hoping some of his other key players can continue their good form in the season’s run-in, particularly Matt Parcell, Adam Cuthbertson and Joel Moon.
Cuthbertson and Moon were both part of Leeds’ treble winning squad in 2015, but the duo were not the key members of that squad, which was led by the retiring Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield. The duo has a much more important role in McDermott’s squad in 2017, with Cuthbertson filling the void left by Peacock, whilst Moon’s switch to half-back has proved to be a stroke of genius, with the Australian much more influential than at centre.
However, it will be Parcell who will be key to Leeds’ chance of success, with the hooker perhaps the signing of the 2017 season. The 24-year-old has scored 13 tries and assisted a further 11 for his teammates, whilst he has also made a mammoth 833 tackles, making him the club’s top tackler.
Leeds’ 2017 season has been a success, particularly when compared to last year, when the club were fighting relegation following the departure of Peacock and Sinfield. However, McDermott will want more from his side during the run-in, with the Rhinos still in with a great chance of Grand Final success at Old Trafford.
Whilst the tipsters and pundits are predicting glory for Castleford later in 2017, they would be foolish to rule out the resurgent Leeds Rhinos.