The official Rhinos statement is that Danny Ward was sacked after several breaches of club code. The final incident must have been in recent days, possibly associated with Matt Diskins wedding over the weekend, or perhaps with the trip to York (Danny was not in attendance). This was Danny's 'third strike' with the earlier two being alcohol related trouble on the trip to Perpignan last year, and a drink driving ban suffered during 2005. Whatever criticism you level at Smith and Hetherington, it has to be said that the lad was given every chance to prove himself.
Comments on the messageboard, in reaction to the sacking, can be split broadly into three camps;
The Pessimists - Oh My God!
For many this was the last straw in a close-season which has seen us left in the recruitment wake of our competitors. With just four real signings (McAvoy ignored) and now eight departures, supporters will fear that this shows a real lack of ambition on behalf of the administration. People in the 'Oh my god!' camp are tipping us to be also-rans this season with a lack of depth which will leave us short of challenging for any honours. With just four mainstream props, in what is claimed by Tony Smith to be a strong pack, we only need to pick up a couple of simultaneous injuries and our season could well be over before it begins.
The Optimists - We'll be Okay
Some have suggested that Ward will not be too greatly missed, indeed some have said that he was a bad influence on the side. Often criticised as overweight and lazy, Danny has been on a rolling one-year contract to try and keep him lean, mean and keen. Despite gaining GB and England honours, he's never established himself on the international team.
The Optimists cite cover with JJB complementing Bailey, Scruton, O'Neill and Feather, with youngsters in Kirke and Tootill coming through the ranks and likely to shine when they get their big chance. Despite the departures, the arrival of young, keen forwards compensates and the Rhinos will cape as well as they did last season.
The Conspiracists - Space on the 20/20
The third camp on the Ward sacking is one which sees the event as one constructed out of convenience for Smith and Hetherington. With Ward gone, and a place in the props, we have now freed two places on the 20/20 and some space under the salary cap. The conspiracy theorists will see the arrival of Marcus St. Hilaire at Bradford ('as cover for the backs') as a clear sign that Vainikolo is on his way to Headingley after the World Club Challenge, possibly to be joined by team-mate Stuart Fielden, now that we have the space and money free!
Where do I stand? Well, I'm shifting between the three on an almost hourly basis. I'd like to be a conspiracist, and expect that Hetherington will endear himself to the supporters with two sensational eleventh hour signings, but I just feel that we are too close to the salary cap for this to be feasible.
I'd like to be an optimist, hoping that the youngsters can come through like McGuire, Burrow, Diskin and Sinfield have over recent years and prove that they can cut it at the highest level of the game, but so many fail at this point in their careers.
So I'm probably a pessimist, looking at the playing squad for the season and thinking 'I can't see us making it past Round 14 and still being in contention!'.
I pray I am wrong!