Leeds build for the future

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The Independent Online
A WEEK left in the season, another set of runners-up medals beckoning, and Leeds are already a club in transition. Resigned to losing their captain, Ellery Hanley, to Australia and fearful that Craig Innes and Alan Tait will follow, Leeds, who play St Helens in their Premiership semi-final this afternoon, are turning their minds towards restructuring.

Those plans include rebuilding their ground, but the future shape of the team is of even greater concern. They have already recruited the New Zealand Test stand-off, Tony Kemp, from Castleford - even though he will start his Leeds career with a two-match suspension.

"He will become a vital member of the Leeds side," said their coach, Doug Laughton. "He is a player I have always admired." Kemp's arrival, coupled with the departure of Hanley, will open up new horizons for Garry Schofield by allowing him to move to loose forward - the position he should have been playing for the past couple of years.

There is no more wrong with Schofield's defence than there is with his agile rugby brain, so he will be able to compensate for any loss of pace by making this overdue move.

That still leaves the scrum-half question. The recruitment of Patrick Entat failed to solve the problem this season and now, after being given little chance to settle, he seems destined for the Paris Super League side.

Graham Holroyd is an important player to Leeds, not least for his expert goal-kicking, but he has always looked an ersatz scrum-half. Stand by for summer-long speculation about possible new number sevens, leaving Holroyd to move to full-back if and when Tait goes.

The new incumbent, however, is hardly likely to be as effective as one former Leeds scrum-half who will remind Headingley of his abilities today. The last time Bobby Goulding played there for Saints, he told Leeds supporters how much he had loved his time at the club. Some of them were convinced that he was on his way back, but that was before he was accused of spitting and swearing at a section of them.

It sums up Goulding's mixed relationship with Leeds, but, in the week when he is likely to be named as the Stones Bitter Man of Steel, the First Division Player of the Year, or both, there will be Leeds supporters wondering whether he might have made the difference to a season which has been a case of so near, so far.