The four key issues Brad Arthur must prioritise after Leeds Rhinos appointment, including tying down key man

Louis Chapman Coombe

Leeds Rhinos have appointed experienced coach Brad Arthur as the club’s new head coach, following the departure of Rohan Smith last month. 

The Headingley outfit have again struggled to find consistency this season, and remain outside the playoffs heading into the latter half of the campaign.

Leeds have a squad packed with quality players, but it is now Arthur’s job to get them into the top six. Here is an in-depth look at his in-tray.

Tying down key names

Rhyse Martin Leeds Rhinos Alamy
Rhyse Martin kicking a conversion for Leeds Rhinos in 2024

A major priority for Arthur needs to be dealing with contract situations. Leeds still have five first-team players out of contract at the end of the season, but his focus needs to be on securing the services of PNG international Rhyse Martin. Martin is such an important player to the Rhinos, both from a performance point of view but also from a leadership position too. His goal-kicking is also vital to the success of the team.

Reports have emerged both Warrington Wolves and Leigh Leopards are in for him, so Arthur needs to ensure Martin is a Rhino in 2025 or he could easily come back to haunt them as an opponent.

The contact situation with David Fusitu’a also needs to be addressed. The winger occupies a quota spot, but has been plagued with injury issues since joining the club. Either way, a decision needs to be made on his future.

Getting the spine clicking

Lachlan Miller, Leeds Rhinos
Lachie Miller

A lot was made about Leeds’ new-look spine ahead of this season, but they still seem to be disconnected at times. Brodie Croft and Lachie Miller thrive in the off-the-cuff style of attack, however both Cam Smith and Matt Frawley do best in structured attacks.

They did find their groove in their recent 18-10 win over Leigh Leopards, but with all the emotional build-up it would have likely been inexcusable to not play well.

Jarrod O’Connor’s return to the starting side has added some more cohesion, particularly with Smith, and he has previously told Love Rugby League that their recent victory over the Leopards was the most connected they have been this season.

When they play at their best, and stay on the same page, they are deadly; but the challenge for Arthur is to get them to click quickly before the run-in.

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Power in the middle

Mikolaj Oledzki Leeds Rhinos Alamy
Mikolaj Oledzki in action for the Rhinos

The Rhinos pack, and particularly the front-row, have come under heavy fire from various mediums this season; but again they can be a proper force if they play to their full capacity.

Again in their win over Leigh, Mikolaj Oledzki and Justin Sangare put in a proper shift for the team and were able to charge through the Leigh line with ease.

Sam Lisone has also hit some very good form, and is also developing an ability to play big minutes off the bench; however, he needs some help from his fellow forwards to get Leeds consistent front-foot ball.

This also transfers across into defence. Too often this season, Leeds have just been overpowered in the middle by opposition packs. Hull FC dominated the collisions in the shock 18-10 defeat, and St Helens and Warrington have also had the better of them in this area. This in turn has put Leeds firmly on the back foot in a lot of games.

Leeds’ pack has shown what they can do when they get the bit between the teeth, as highlighted in their wins over London Broncos, Castleford Tigers and Leigh; but again Arthur needs to get them going on a consistent basis.

How do you fix a problem like Harry Newman?

Harry Newman
Leeds Rhinos’ Harry Newman

When on top form, Harry Newman is a proper X-factor player. The club went above and beyond to tie him down to a new deal coming into the 2024 campaign, but he is yet to find his feet this season. He has also had his attitude questioned in the past, and we have seen signs of this creeping into his game again.

During the Autumn internationals against Tonga, it seemed Shaun Wane had ironed out these issues though, and he seemed a much better player for it. He quickly grew into the series to become a key man in the backline, and grabbed a well-deserved try in the third test too.

Newman is such an explosive, dynamic player who can genuinely do brilliant things when given the ball in space, but like a lot of the team, Arthur needs to find a way to get him playing his best rugby again.

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