When Danny McGuire produced an exemplary performance to inspire Leeds to their 24-6 Grand Final triumph over Castleford last October, it marked his final appearance in Rhinos colours and saw another club legend depart the scene. At the time of the victory, it was known that Catalans’ Richie Myler was set to join the club but that left many fans uninspired; would he be able to control one of the best teams in the competition? Following on from two seasons with the underachieving Dragons, it was perceived in some corners as a poor signing and one which would leave Leeds struggling in the halves.
What has followed can only be categorised as the total opposite; since the very first game of the season against one of his former teams Warrington, the 27 year old has shown moments of inspiration and has already developed a strong understanding with Australian Joel Moon as the club’s premier half backs. It’s a partnership that Rhinos players have praised as well as coach Brian McDermott who said “the more they play together the better they’ll be. Richie’s an absolute general on the field and that’s what our team needs, someone in the middle telling them what to do.”
It has been commented by his new teammates that Myler is very adept at directing the set plays and that is something which has hugely benefitted Leeds this season. Even against Castleford – who raced into a 24-0 lead – the Rhinos managed to cross for more tries than their opponents and, even with their off-the-cuff style, Myler’s tactical astuteness plays a huge part in their scoring success. He also seems to be getting the best out of Kallum Watkins outside him at right centre, a player who the Widnes-born half back will be hoping to re-join in the England squad. His kicking game, which this writer believes has been superb thus far in 2018, saw Leeds’ captain cross for the opening try in Sunday’s victory at Wakefield. While that kick was a grubber, cross field kicks resulted in tries for Watkins and Ash Handley in the aforementioned game against Castleford as well as for Jamie Jones-Buchanan in the season opener at Warrington, showing the quality he possesses with his boot.
His support play is also something that has been admired in the past. That was shown by his pace in supporting Tom Briscoe to cross for a vital try in last month’s eye-opening win at St Helens, a try which levelled the game when the Rhinos perhaps didn’t deserve to be. While has only crossed for one four pointer himself, he has laid on eleven for his team mates, a joint league leading record alongside only Wigan and England stand off George Williams.
Perhaps the biggest tribute that can be paid to how well Myler has settled into his new surroundings after his move from France is that there are very few fans – and none that this writer is aware of – who are comparing his performances to that of McGuire. If he was struggling, all and sundry would be lamenting the loss of Super League’s all-time record try scorer. Instead, they are suggesting that Myler is the signing of the season so far – no small praise, then, for the player boasting over 250 Super League appearances. Could 2018, his first season in Leeds colours, result in his first Grand Final triumph?