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Leeds Rhinos season preview 2011

By Jake Katborg
BBC Radio Leeds

Kevin Sinfield
Sinfield says the Rhinos have a more attacking style under Brian McDermott

After their unprecedented hat-trick of Super League titles, 2010 proved to a barren year for Leeds Rhinos.

Leeds were the dominant force in Super League for much of the decade - Grand Final winners on four occasions, first under Tony Smith (2004 and 2007) and then Brian McClennan (2008 and 2009).

They also added two World Cup Challenge titles to their impressive haul, although the Challenge Cup continued to elude them.

But that run of success came to an end in 2010 when they lost to Warrington in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley before being eliminated by Wigan in the Super League play-offs.

Despite having signed a new one-year deal in May, McClennan decided to leave Headingley, handing over the reins to his assistant Brian McDermott.

And that left the former Harlequins head coach in the Headingley hot seat earlier than expected, having originally agreed to move back to West Yorkshire with a view to replacing McClennan in 2012.

"We've got a new coach who's brought a freshness and has talked a lot about us having the ball and playing an attacking style," Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield told BBC Radio Leeds.

"Hopefully that'll come out in the games and our performances. It's been really enjoyable for us as players to play under that sort of system.

"I've really enjoyed working under Mac so far. I think he's given us a purpose and he's put a smile on people's faces again."

Despite their trophyless season, McDermott has not so far seen much need to change the personnel at Headingley.

Scott Donald retired, to return to Australia, while Matt Diskin moved to arch-rivals Bradford, as Leeds brought in Crusaders forward Weller Hauraki and prop Ben Cross from NRL side Newcastle Knights.

They will be without two key players for the start of Super League XVI in Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock.

Brian McClennan (L) & Kevin Sinfield (R)
Brian McClennan and Kevin Sinfield enjoyed two Grand Final triumphs

But Sinfield hopes that their return - expected to be in May - will feel like getting two new signings.

"Hopefully we can get off to a decent start," he said. "And then throw JP and Danny Mags into the mix a bit later on in the season, and mount a serious challenge.

"Some of the frustrations from last year are still there and until we can get a run of games where we can get rid of those properly they'll still nag away.

"I think we'll rise to the challenge. We've been written off quite a bit in the media. But it doesn't bother me at all.

"It does put a little smile on my face, though, because I know the sort of drive and determination we've got in the group.

"I know what's happened in the past when people have written our team off, so I hope they keep doing that and I'm really looking forward to the year."

BBC Radio Leeds will once again be the home of West Yorkshire rugby league for the 2011 season and will have commentary of all three matches from the Magic Weekend in Cardiff.

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