Rhinos have double ambition

  • By: Jordan Fiddes
  • Last Updated: February 4 2014, 9:07 GMT

There are high standards set at Leeds Rhinos, so, despite finishing third last season, the campaign was seen as somewhat of a failure.

Tom Briscoe: New signing for the Rhinos
Tom Briscoe: New signing for the Rhinos

That was their highest league position since 2009, but finishing the year empty handed is something they are using as motivation for 2014.

This year they are 9/2 to win the Grand Final which has been trimmed very slightly from the 5/1 they were at the start of last year.

Despite using 2013 as added motivation for this season, captain Kevin Sinfield insists there were still no excuses for a trophy-less campaign last time out.

"We were very determined last year but we weren't quite good enough," Sinfield said.

"We are really hungry right now. For a club like Leeds not to win any silverware last year it was tough so we want to make that right this time round."

Some key new signings will go a long way to righting those wrongs, none more so than England winger Tom Briscoe. The ex-Hull FC flyer joins the club despite interest from other Super League teams and the NRL.

Briscoe is 14/1 to finish the season as top-tryscorer but he'll be competing for his role on the wing with players like Ben Jones-Bishop and Zak Hardaker.

"It was a great opportunity to come here and their record in finals makes it very attractive and one I couldn't pass up," Briscoe said.

"I'm approaching this year as any other really, get my head down and train really hard. I want to show why I deserve that spot."

Full-back come winger, Hardaker, controversially left the England World Cup squad at the end of the year but the Featherstone-born back has put that firmly in the past for 2014.

He said: "With the new signings, there is huge competition for places but we're all learning from each other and that only makes you better as a player.

"Unfortunately, someone is going to be dropped but hopefully the places are given to those who have been the best throughout the week."

Also competing for his spot in the starting line-up is the hugely talented youngster Liam Sutcliffe who has the likes of Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow ahead of him in the half-back role.

He commented: "I'm still young and still learning so whatever game time I get I will be happy with."

That game time may be restricted this year if the squad remains fit - something which hampered the, then, reigning Champions in 2013.

While the Rhinos struggled to cope with the growing injury list, Wigan Warriors were quick to swoop and secure an historic Challenge Cup and Grand Final double - something not achieved since St Helens in 2006.

The Cherry and Whites were 8/1 to achieve that at the start of the year when many pundits were writing the Lancashire outfit off.

Jamie Peacock, who signed a new two-year deal with the six-time Grand Final winners on Monday, is the first to lead the plaudits for their rivals over the Pennines: "Wigan are the benchmark at the moment. A bit like Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile; nobody thought you could win a Challenge Cup and Grand Final in the same year but they played a tenacious game which saw them reach that goal. That's what we are aspiring to and where we need to get to."

The Rhinos stalwart is likely to finish his career at Leeds and is a front-runner for this year's Man of Steel award at 20/1, something he was pipped for by Huddersfield's Danny Brough last year.

Both Wigan and Leeds lead the betting for Grand Final glory this year but they'll have to do it tough with the return of promotion and relegation.

Common in all the player's interviews this year is the rise in competitiveness coming into the latter rounds of Super League - something which has been lost in recent years as all teams kept their top flight status despite their final league position.

Peacock continued: "It's going to be more difficult for the players this year because normally the bottom four clubs have nothing to play for and they are getting ready to go on holiday. This year they'll be playing for their jobs and their livelihoods."

Hardaker hopes it will have a huge bearing off the pitch too, with the added excitement getting more spectators through the turnstiles: "Hopefully, with relegation, the intensity will increase which will bring in more investors, more fans and get it as a good tight competition.

"We've got a really tough start to the season, so that will give us a good telling of where we are and where we want to be at the end of the year."

The Rhinos kick off their 2014 campaign away at Hull KR before tackling fellow title contenders Warrington at home a week later.

Should they claim maximum points from the opening fixtures, expect their odds to come in for the title and, with a fully fit squad, don't put it past them to complete a league and cup double for the first time in their Super League history.

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