Written by John Davidson
Leeds chief executive says the Rhinos poor start to the 2019 season has been “particularly disappointing” and admits the club are in transition.
Leeds are bottom of Super League with just two wins from their first 10 games. They have the worst defence in the competition and on Thursday went down to Hull KR 45-26.
Speaking on Tuesday before the loss to the Robins, Hetherington remained positive.
“We were full of confidence and optimism about the new season,” he told TV program Back Chat.
“The team and the squad is going through a transition period. That’s not an excuse and we have to be careful we don’t continue… it depends on how long a transition lasts.
“We’ve got a new coach in Dave Furner, the new coach always inherits the previous coach’s squad. Inevitably there will be some change and that change takes some time.
“And that’s the transitional part we’re going through now and we’ll continue to go through. But nevertheless, to find ourselves with just one win after eight games was particularly disappointing.
“In many ways that’s the nature of this year’s competition, such a tough competition and every team can beat everyone else. Warrington and St Helens have started the strongest, and may well finish the strongest as well, they’re both in pretty good shape.
“But I think it’s going to be ebb and flow throughout the course of the season and everybody’s got a chance of beating somebody else. There’s no surprises anymore.”
Hetherington is confident Leeds can turn their ailing campaign around.
“It’s how you finish that counts, in many respects,” he said.
“The history of the league is littered with teams that have good spells – every team will have a good spell and every team will have a bad spell – some teams have more than one.
“I remember a few years ago Hull winning only two of their first nine games and they ended up coming second in the league. They had a pretty good run in the second half of the year.”
NRL trio Konrad Hurrell, Tui Lolohea and Trent Merrin have come under fire since arriving at Headingley. Hurrell has been the Rhinos’ best performance, Merrin has been solid while Lolohea was dropped for two games.
Hetherington claimed coach David Furner was involved with the signing of all three playes.
“David had coached Tui with Tonga, but that part of our recruitment was made early on in the piece,” he said.
“And so was Konrad Hurrell. Once again, David was delighted wih Konrad as he had coached him with Tonga.
“The latter signing was Trent Merrin, that had been on and off, but came together and Dave played quite a key role in Trent joining us.
“The thing that often gets overlooked is the new layers that have come into the team as well. We’ve had three of our senior players – Carl Ablett, Dom Crosby and Stevie Ward – who’ve really made no contribution at all this season.
“Stevie Wad’s played a couple of games but not many. The others have not played at all and Jamie Jones-Buchanan has only just came back into the side.
“On the positive side we’ve had three young players in Cam Smith, Oledski and Tom Holyrood played last week as young players who’ve recently come out of the academy. So that’s been encouraging really.”
Hetherington reinforced the expectation at Leeds is for the club to competing for silverware, not fighting relegation.
“We’re a team that wants to be challenging for honours, in the league, in the cup, in every competition that we play,” he said.
“Our satisfaction levels are pretty high, it’s not battling down at the bottom. But I think we don’t pay enough respect to the other teams in the competition.
“It’s no disgrace to be beaten by anybody. It’s now the most even Super League that we’ve ever had.”