The bookies have more or less 'shut up shop'. They are now offering Leeds at 1/6 to win Superleague, and have markets for betting without Leeds, so sure are they that we will finish top of the pile. Our closest rivals from last year, Bradford Bulls are being offered by SportingOdds.com at 66/1 following their defeat agains Warrington yesterday. As the Rhinos rise continues, the Bulls are in freefall!|
Obviously the main reasons for our continued rise are the quality of the coaching of Tony Smith, The excellence and determination of the players, and the fantastic support that turns up week after week to cheer the lads. There is, however, someone else we should be thanking for our success...and unsung hero for many at Headingley...Brain Noble!
So why should be be thanking the Bradford Bulls boss?
Reason 1 - Iestyn Harris
Bradford got Harris, and Leeds did not. On the surface you would think that gave Bradford the advantage, but far from it. This one works at several levels.
Firstly, if Iestyn had returned to the Rhinos we'd have had to break the bank, put the salary scale to the sword, and possibly even re-instated the phoney welshman as skipper. All of these would have been devisive to a harmonious squad that were working for one another.
Secondly, the salary dissatisfaction ripple effect has been felt by Bradford with many long standing players unhappy at Harris's deal. He's not been adopted into the side, and plenty of Bulls noses have been put out of joint.
Thirdly, Harris is a shadow of his former self in terms of playing skill, but not body bulk. His time playing the other code has ruined his rugby league brain, and even after six months back playing league, he has been unable to recoved his form. The money he cost, and earns, means that Bradford have no option but to play him.
Reason 2 - Kevin Sinfield
What a master stroke on the part of Noble to not select the captain of the Superleague IX champions for the tri-nations series! Kevin's omission from the GB squad was met with gasps of shock from the entire rugby league world, especially after he had been so consistent all season.
His omission from the squad gave him the winter to rest and recover, and he has come back in a far more determined fashion and is having the best season of his career.
And Noble must have been right in his decision, look how well we ended up doing against the Aussies!
Reason 3 - The Demise of Bradford Bulls
The Bulls are now languishing is seventh spot in Superleague, only separated from tenth spot by points difference (a paltry +16). Noble was flying by the seat of his pants last season in managing to steer his ageing squad to the Grand Final, but this season the cracks are really starting to show.
He's lost (through sale or retirement) the core of players that was left for him by Matthew Elliot in 2000. His acquisitions have, for the most part, been inferior to the players that they have replaced. He no longer seems to be able to get the best out of his players as losses to Warrington, Saints, Leeds, Widnes and Wakefield prove.
So when you are next cheering on 'Tony Smiths Barmy Army' spare a thought for Brian Noble, one of the architects of our success. Thanks Brian!
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