Exclusive: Jack Sinfield reveals his Leeds Rhinos ‘priority’ as youngster earns Rohan Smith praise

Ross Heppenstall
Jack Sinfield, Rohan Smith

Leeds Rhinos youngster Jack Sinfield (main image) and head coach Rohan Smith (circle)

Drastic times call for drastic remedies but, as Rohan Smith discovered in last night’s win over London Broncos, those measures can also have pleasing results.

For a match he dared not lose, the Leeds Rhinos head coach took the bold decision to axe Matt Frawley from his line-up and hand 19-year-old scrum-half Jack Sinfield his first appearance of 2024.

Another notable change included benching Andy Ackers and starting Jarrod O’Connor at hooker.

Both moves paid off, with Sinfield named of the match and O’Connor and Ackers making pivotal contributions against Super League’s bottom side in a thumping 46-8 victory.

Smith’s decision to drop Frawley altogether and play Sinfield – the son of arguably Leeds’ greatest-ever captain – certainly added a huge layer of intrigue to proceedings.

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Exclusive: Leeds Rhinos youngster Jack Sinfield talks ‘responsibility’ after first senior appearance of 2024

Over two years have passed since the youngster made his senior debut as a 17-year-old in a televised Super League defeat at Castleford Tigers on Easter Monday in 2022.

Jack Sinfield
Jack Sinfield in action on his Super League debut in April 2022

First-team opportunities have not been easy to come by – Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer were ahead of him and then Brodie Croft and Frawley arrived at the end of last season.

Last night’s outing against London – the 12th Super League appearance of Sinfield’s fledgling career – offered a huge chance to stake a claim for regular first-team action.

He took it, scoring a second-half try from Ackers’ superb assist and proving a steadying influence on the team throughout, having started alongside Croft before partnering Cameron Smith after the former departed with a tight groin during the first half.

“It felt good and it was nice to get over the line for a try,” Sinfield told Love Rugby League after the match.

“Brodie going off injured was unfortunate because that was how we had practised all week, but I’m used to playing with Cam anyway.

“I just had to take a bit more responsibility with the kicking and organising, but I enjoyed it.

“I didn’t have to do much for my try – Ackers did all the work – but it was nice to finally get over.”

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‘I’ve spoken to Rohan a lot about staying ready’

Croft is one of Super League’s most potent creative forces and noted for his strong running game, as evidenced by the way he scythed through London’s defence to open the scoring.

Jack Sinfield
Jack Sinfield is congratulated by his Leeds Rhinos team-mates having scored a try in their Round 10 victory against London Broncos

Sinfield, something of an old school scrum-half with a fine kicking game, could be given more chances to shine alongside the 2022 Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel.

“Brodie’s a great player and I think everyone knows that – he showed that tonight when he was on the field,” added Sinfield.

“I think his game compliments mine and vice-versa, so hopefully that’s something we can build on.”

Sinfield told Love Rugby League in pre-season of his desire to push Croft and Frawley for a regular half-back spot this year.

But until last night’s game against London, the teenager had been playing for the Rhinos’ reserves.

“It’s been hard at times,” he admitted.

“But I understand that I’m still young and I’m still learning and developing.

“I’ve spoken to Rohan a lot about staying ready and, when the opportunity comes, taking it.

“I feel like I’ve done that against London and hopefully I can kick on a bit now.”

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‘I grew up around the South Stand and around Headingley, so every time I play here is a bit of a pinch-me moment’

Head coach Smith has come under scrutiny in recent weeks and faced calls for his head from some Leeds fans during last Sunday’s 18-12 victory at Hull FC.

Brodie Croft, Jack Sinfield, Ash Handley
Brodie Croft (left) & Jack Sinfield (centre) congratulate Leeds Rhinos team-mate Ash Handley (right) after his try in their Round 10 victory against London Broncos

Frawley has also bore the brunt of supporters’ criticism, and being removed from the firing line against London provided a chance for Sinfield to shine.

“Matt’s a great bloke and has been really good with me since he came to the club during the off-season,” explained Sinfield.

“I’m still young and learning, so it’s been really good for me to learn things from his game as well as Brodie’s.

“But he’s a great guy and I can’t say enough good things about Matt as a person.”

When Sinfield scored in the 47th minute – one of eight different try-scorers – the South Stand chorused with a chant of ‘Sir Kevin Sinfield’, a reference to his legendary father.

“My mum, dad and little brother were here tonight,” added Sinfield with a huge smile.

“Obviously I grew up around the South Stand and around Headingley, so every time I play here is a bit of a pinch-me moment.

“It’s really enjoyable, especially to do it with some of the younger lads coming through like Riley (Lumb) and Alfie (Edgell), although it was a shame Riley got injured early on.

“But we’ve spent a lot of time together coming through, playing Reserves and Academy games together, so it was nice to play first-team with those two.

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With Croft going off injured against London, Sinfield could be needed again when Leeds travel to Catalans Dragons next weekend.

His performance against London gave boss Smith food for thought, with the Rhinos chief saying: “I thought Sinny had a good, solid game – he’s certainly grown as a young bloke.

Rohan Smith Leeds Rhinos Alamy
Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith

“He obviously got thrown in there in tough circumstances a couple of years ago; probably a little bit too early I would’ve thought.

“But he’s grown and progressed a lot since then and he’s a terrific young bloke who works hard, takes on criticism and works on building his game.

“He’s the ultimate team player at the moment, so I’m really pleased with how Jack went about it.

“He stepped forward when Brodie went off and did a bit more, probably, than he would have otherwise, which was a good experience for him.

“Sinny’s been working hard in the background and I just thought it was a good time to get him in there.

“As a coach you have to do what you think is right for the group in any given week and Frawls handled it [being dropped] really well.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Frawls and he’s got a big job to do for us this season.

“He handled himself like a real pro and got behind the other players –the vibe around training on Thursday was probably as good as it has been all season.

“That’s throughout the whole squad, not just the blokes who were playing, and that was pleasing going into a game where all you guys only want to talk about one winner.”

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‘I want to play at Leeds Rhinos and I want to be in the first team… that’s my priority’

The prospect of Sinfield heading out of Headingley on loan or dual-registration – in order to play regular first-team rugby – has been mooted.

Jack Sinfield
Jack Sinfield warms up ahead of a Leeds Rhinos game in 2024

“Rohan and I speak quite regularly about it,” revealed Sinfield.

“As long as I think I’m still developing, and as long as Rohan thinks I’m still developing, that’s the main thing.

“As soon as I get to a point where I’m not developing then maybe that could be an option.

“But I want to play at Leeds Rhinos and I want to be in the first team, so that’s my priority.”

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