Written by Zack Wilson
Photo by Leeds Rhinos
Leeds Rhinos did not enjoy a good season in 2018.
As in 2016, the West Yorkshire city slickers followed up a championship winning season with an excursion into the Qualifiers, where they had to battle for their Super League survival.
In a bid to avoid a repeat of that in 2019, Leeds have spent decent money on acquiring some new recruits.
The three overseas players that they have signed have big reputations too.
Tongan international Konrad Hurrell is a former New Zealand Warriors centre who has spent the last three seasons with the Gold Coast Titans.
His powerful running will certainly boost the strike options in the Rhinos’ back line.
Another Tongan international who has moved to Headingley is Tui Lolohea, a stand-off who offers some lively threat in attack. He has joined from Wests Tigers.
He has played a significant amount of his rugby at fullback, though, so questions remain as to whether he is the answer when it comes to Leeds’ issues in the halves.
He certainly has talent, but his career could justifiably be characterised as one of potential rather than achievement so far.
The two Tongan internationals will also add a touch of charisma and exoticism to the side.
Tonga are riding a bit of a rugby league zeitgeist at the moment, with the national side developing rapidly towards becoming a Tier One nation.
Having a bit of that Tongan sparkle will be good from a PR point of view, and it may also help to get the fans behind the team early on.
Hurrell’s presence in the team will also take some of the pressure off Kallum Watkins, with the Rhinos now possessing strike on both edges in the centres.
Trent Merrin is the third of the Rhinos’ overseas acquisitions, having joined from Penrith Panthers.
The former Kangaroo is 29, so at the peak of his powers as a forward. Signing him was a real coup for the Rhinos.
Merrin may well line up at loose forward for the Rhinos, and his job will be to re-instil the steeliness and will to win the Rhinos possessed when they had the likes of Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai in the pack.
One potential issue will be Lolohea’s partnership with Richie Myler in the halves.
Neither is a natural general, with both more suited to a running, supporting style of halfback play.
Talk is that Lolohea fancies himself as the controlling influence, so it will be interesting to see how the relationship works when the players get into action.
If that partnership does not spark right away, things could be tough for Leeds.
But the hierarchy at the club have certainly taken action to correct the problems of last season.
There is still a sense that they are perhaps gambling slightly, but these three players should ensure plenty of entertainment is in store for the fans at Headingley.
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