Leeds Rhinos exclusive: Harry Newman opens up on the brotherly love that drove his decision to pen new contract

Ross Heppenstall
Harry Newman Leeds Rhinos Alamy

Harry Newman in action for Leeds Rhinos in 2023 - Alamy

When Harry Newman’s new contract at Leeds Rhinos was announced on Wednesday, he spoke of the importance of family in his decision.

One of the brightest young talents of his generation was attracting interest from rival clubs, with lucrative offers from the NRL on the table.

But home is where the heart is for the 23-year-old England international centre, whose connection to his tight-knit family persuaded him to remain in his native West Yorkshire.

The Huddersfield lad is especially close to his younger brother Ed, who suffered a cardiac arrest over a decade ago.

Leeds Rhinos exclusive: Harry Newman opens up on the brotherly love that drove his decision to pen new contract

Newman compares Ed’s ordeal with that of former Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed on the pitch during an FA Cup tie at Tottenham in March 2012 following a cardiac arrest.

“I’m a huge family man and we’ve had some pretty tough times – I nearly lost my brother Ed when I was 11 years old,” Newman told Love Rugby League at the Super League launch in Manchester on Thursday.

“He had a cardiac arrest when he was 10, and it’s not going to get tougher than that. It was a very rare condition and what happened with Fabrice Muamba, that exact same thing happened to Ed.

Fabrice Muamba
Fabrice Muamba returns to Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok Stadium ahead of a Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur in May 2012: Two months earlier, he’d suffered a cardiac arrest at White Hart Lane in an FA Cup game between the pair – Alamy

“That’s always something I’ve looked back when people have written me off, saying, ‘Newman’s broken his leg, he’ll never play again’.

“But my brother can’t play any sport, he’s got defibrillator fitted in him, so for me every time I play is an opportunity. I’m representing Ed and the rest of my family, which is something that will inspire me throughout my career.

“It’s probably something I’ve only recently started to speak openly about; I’ve previously held it in and struggled with it.

“When something like that happens to you as a kid, it can be quite traumatising. Ed’s 22 now, so we’re very similar in age and grew up doing everything together.

“How close are we as brothers? The closest you could possibly be. We fought and scrapped growing up, as brothers do, but he’s my best mate and I love him to bits.

“He’ll be right next to me every step of my career, that’s for sure. If you met Ed now, you wouldn’t think there’s anything wrong with him.

“That just shows the fight he’s got and the kind of fight we’ve all been born with. No matter how tough it gets, we always come through the other side.

“Ed’s definitely a fighter… and he’s a redhead, which proves that! I’m proud of myself, I’m proud of my family and I want to do them proud on a rugby field for Leeds Rhinos.”

READ NEXT: NextGen – Alfie Edgell – the Leeds Rhinos full-back who grew up idolising Danny McGuire

‘We’re Leeds Rhinos and we simply have to be in the top four, regardless’

Newman’s new deal ties him to Headingley until the end of the 2026 season. Another key factor behind his new contract was the club’s close-season recruitment drive.

Finishing eighth last season was tantamount to failure for a club of the Rhinos’ size, stature and history.

But Rohan Smith has signed a raft of new faces including Brodie Croft, Andy Ackers, Lachlan Miller, Matt Frawley, Mickael Goudemand and Paul Momirovski.

Lachlan Miller, Leeds Rhinos
New Leeds Rhinos signing Lachlan ‘Lachie’ Miller – Alamy

“I definitely believe we can be a lot better this year, but we’ve got to improve no matter what,” admitted Newman, who grew up playing rugby union before switching codes to league in his early teens.

“The club has really invested and shown the vision for the way they want to go because last year wasn’t good enough – we let the fans and ourselves down.

“We’re Leeds Rhinos and we simply have to be in the top four, regardless. I’m going to be playing outside Brodie, which for a centre like me doesn’t get much better.

“He’s a former Man of Steel and he’s still only 26 himself. I think we’ve signed some scary players who can frighten the opposition, but the big thing for us was coming together and building the culture.

“We’ve massively worked hard on that in pre-season – Cam Smith as captain has really stepped up as leader – and I think you’ll see that togetherness in the coming weeks.”

Newman reflects on first England opportunity last autumn

Newman made his England debut during the test series against Tonga, starring in all three games and scoring his first try in the final match at Headingley.

A player who has cruelly suffered numerous serious injury setbacks during his career believes the best is yet to come.

He said: “It was a shock to be involved in that test series and probably came with people dropping out and not being available because of injury.

“But I thought, as the test series went on, I showed what I can do and took the opportunity with both hands.

“I probably wasn’t as fit as I would have liked, having not played much rugby last year, so having a full pre-season now going into the new campaign is big for me.

Harry Newman, England
Harry Newman scores his first England try against Tonga at Headingley in November 2023 – Alamy

“I probably sorted out some other stuff in life generally too that I’ve struggled with and has caused unnecessary stuff.

“I don’t really want to go in to that, but now I’m just focused on leading a happy, healthy life and giving my all for the club.

“Do I feel I can get better? 100%, I know what I can do and when I play I think I deliver that pretty consistently.

“Unfortunately injuries have taken their toll on me, so that’s something I want to leave behind this year and not be a talking point anymore.”

READ NEXT: Everything you need to know as Super League confirms free-to-air deal with BBC

‘I felt I owed it to the club, the fans and my family to stay here and do them all proud’

Looking to the future, Newman is keeping his options open.

“I’ve got another three years here and there’s still plenty of time left in my career to experience other opportunities down the line maybe,” he said.

“That’s something I spoke about with Rohan Smith and he gave me some good advice, so I’m delighted to be working with him and staying at Leeds for the next three years.

“This club has really stuck by me during some tough times with my injuries because people don’t realise how that affect your mental health and other complications.

“I felt I owed it to the club, the fans and my family to stay here and do them all proud.”

READ NEXT: My Ultimate Team – Joel Tomkins names his greatest 1-17 from players he played alongside