Leeds boss Rohan Smith has been handed a timely boost ahead of their ‘mini Grand Final’ with Huddersfield in Super League at Headingley Stadium.
Pressure is building on Australian coach Smith, who have claimed just six wins from 15 so far in 2023 and sit outside the play-offs in eighth position.
David Fusitu’a, Sam Lisone and Aidan Sezer have all been included in Leeds’ 21-man squad for Friday’s Super League Round 16 home fixture.
Former New Zealand and Tonga international Fusitu’a, 28, has not played for 10 weeks since suffering an ankle injury in the defeat to Hull KR earlier in March.
Prop Lisone bolsters Leeds’ forward pack options, with Zane Tetevano, Morgan Gannon and Tom Holroyd all currently sidelined through respective injuries.
The ex-Gold Coast Titans representative has missed the last four weeks of action with a calf injury, but could make his 150th career appearance at Headingley Stadium this Friday.
Finally, starting half-back Sezer returns to Smith’s 21-man squad after missing the last two games – resulting in defeats to Castleford and Wakefield.
“It’s clearly a boost,” Smith said on the trio.
“They’re three experienced, high level players and they’re all in the mix.
“Fusitu’a and Lisone would have played last weekend if we’d have played. They’ll be good to go, which is pleasing.
“Sezer has trained well this week. We’ll make final decisions there tomorrow on the make up of the 17, but it’s good to have those back and others have had a good opportunity to freshen up and/or get some extended training work in.”
Rohan Smith: Huddersfield clash is a ‘mini Grand Final’
Pressure is building on both the Rhinos and Friday’s opponents in Huddersfield, who sit below on the table in 10th spot with one less win in the first half of the season.
Ian Watson remains confident that his team are heading in the right direction, despite results, and accepts the pressure put on his side externally by those watching on.
Meanwhile, Smith’s future as Leeds’ head coach has been under the microscope in recent weeks, with former Sky Sports commentator Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson believing the side could part ways with the 42-year-old if results don’t change.
The final play-off spot is currently taken by Matt Peet’s Wigan with 18 points, and a win for either Leeds or Huddersfield would be massive in their push for the top six.
“It’s a big opportunity for both clubs,” Smith said.
“I expect it to be a good, hard-fought game.
“It’s huge. It’s massive for both teams. We’re in similar positions and for us we’re in a similar position to where we were last season.
“We expect Huddersfield to be very hungry and it’s a mini Grand Final for both of us I think, coming off a week of reset.
“It’s a pivotal game for the season.”