The champions got the results when it counted at the end of last season. No one gave the four-time Super League title winners a hope in hell when they finished fifth after the regular season. But like true champions, the Rhinos fought against the odds and their critics to secure a fifth Super League crown, and their fourth at the expense of St Helens.
The majority of Leeds’ season was dogged with long spells of brilliance on which consecutive wins followed, backed up by inconsistency with defeats to Harlequins, Bradford and Huddersfield.
After losing the double to Quins in late August, the Rhinos went into their second consecutive Challenge Cup final. Although it looked doubtful at the time, that game was to be their last defeat as Leeds went on a six game winning streak throughout the remaining two scheduled rounds and the play offs.
This year Leeds will want to get back to dominating the league. However they have not recruited externally as well as many of their fans may have liked, bringing in several new faces from the club’s academy structure. However this is an academy system that has proven credentials, so Leeds should still be within touching distance of the leaders. They may even go onto win the Grand Final from another outside position.
Key man: Kevin Sinfield
Kevin Sinfield has been Mr Leeds Rhinos since 1997. In that time he has made over 300 Super League appearances, scored 53 tries and scored over 2,500 points. Sinfield kicked Leeds to both finals with crucial penalty goals at the most important times of the games against Castleford and Warrington. His calm composure is what separates him from other club captains and makes him one of the most successful players in Super League. All that has eluded Sinfield so far in his career is the Challenge Cup, as he did not play in the 1999 Challenge Cup final win over London.
One-to-watch: Rob Burrow
Winning the Harry Sunderland award for the second time propelled Rob Burrow as one of three players to have won the award twice. Sitting alongside Andy Farrell, Chris Joynt and Alan Tait, Burrow was the only player to have unanimously won the votes of all the judges at the game. He shone like a beacon in 2011 coming off the bench as an impact player in the scrum half role. It was a tactic that worked for Brian McDermott as his side went from no hopers to Super League champions.
Transfers Out: Keith Senior, (Released) Ben Cross, (Wigan, Widnes), Luke Burgess (South Sydney), Ali Lauitiiti (Wakefield), Danny Buderus (Newcastle), Kyle Armor (Wakefield , season loan), George Elliot (York), Callum Casey (Halifax), Michael Coady (Relseased)
Prediction: The Champions should be spurred onto a higher finish but won’t be the highest of flyers again, 4th.
Squad: Brent Webb, Ben Jones-Bishop, Kallum Watkins, Zak Hardaker, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Paul McShane, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield, Lee Smith, Brett Delaney, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke, Chris Clarkson, Weller Hauraki, Darrell Griffin, Richard Moore, Jay Pitts, Brad Singleton, Liam Hood, Stevie Ward, Luke Ambler, Luke Briscoe, Jamel Chisholm, Jared Stewart, Daniel Smith.