Mailbox: Kallum Watkins better off free of captaincy pressure

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Dear James,

I wondered about your thoughts and wanted to give my opinion on Kallum Watkins.

As a Rhinos fan I’ve seen him play great and also play poorly. From being in a treble winning side to a side fighting to stay in Super League. I do feel he was a better player due to the players around him and since all those players left (Hall, Sinfield, Burrow, Peacock, Hardaker, McGuire and so on) he hasn’t played anything like that standard of rugby league.

Even being made captain when they left. Presumably in hope he could use that same team mentality and instil it into newer or younger players to keep the club moving in the right direction. However, his leadership qualities are questionable at best. With the Rhinos in a bad place and in need of a leader and somebody to help turn things around I don’t think having him as captain helps in the slightest. Probably more detrimental than beneficial.

Now I understand he has returned from a terrible ACL injury amongst other injuries and sometimes after a big operation like that people are never the same player. After 25 England caps and all the trophies he has won you would expect more of a player with marquee wages and status. Instead he looks hesitant and indecisive. Even if given a linebreak he doesn’t seem capable or wanting to stretch his legs and use the pace and footwork we once knew him for. Instead slowing down and looking for an offload and not attacking any space. It rings alarm bells for me.

I think it’s fair to suggest he move from his current Marquee status and wage to a “normal” wage. As he isn’t playing or contributing as a Marquee player. Thus making way for a star Marquee signing that is much needed with the current league position and performance of the Rhinos. However he must feel that’s unfair and would rather look elsewhere for more money and he’s well within his right considering his career status and the years he has given to Leeds.

Since agreeing to mutually leave the club at the end of the season his performances have improved dramatically. Somebody that looked once scared to make tackles and really get stuck in is now making around 52 tackles a game and has all of a sudden found his voice at being a captain. Speaking to refs more and commanding players. Which leads me to believe he has been more capable the whole time. Maybe not willing? And now of course he is going to head over to the NRL to play for the Gold Coast Titans. Sounds great! A chance to play in Australia with the best of the best. What an opportunity. Until you realise the the Titans aren’t exactly playing well themselves.

As a Leeds fan I would have loved to see the old Kallum Watkins back (although not as a captain) but I don’t think he’s capable of being that player anymore. I think it’s the right thing to do making way to bring in a new potential star Marquee player to help the team progress. And I do wish him all the best for his career. I’m sad in saying I think we’ve seen the best of Kallum Watkins and he will always be a Leeds Rhinos legend and hero. But it’s now time to progress and move forward without him.

Jay Woolaway

Editor’s comment: This is probably the first real player focused mailbox we’ve had all season, and Jay makes some fair points. Watkins has never really struck me as someone who would be a suitable captain, and clearly Leeds have been in turmoil in recent years. A team should be marshalled by a half-back, a hooker or a full-back, or even a prop, who can lead by example, whereas players stuck out in the centres are often not involved as much. There are wider issues at Leeds and Watkins has perhaps been a bemused passenger in that regard, seeing the dismantling of an iconic team, replaced by uncertainty and coach changes. He is rated as a quality centre and it’s up to him now to prove himself in the NRL, which I’m sure he will.

Mailbox gives you the chance to get your voice heard and start the debate with the rugby league audience. Want to be featured? Email the editor: [email protected]