Rugby League: Sheridan learns his pack drill

Dave Hadfield finds a spell up front transformed Leeds' scrum- half

FOR A specialist scrum-half, a banishment into the boilerhouse of the forwards might seem like a bad career move, but Ryan Sheridan believes that it has been the making of him.

Sheridan, who will line up for Leeds in the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final against the London Broncos at Wembley on Saturday, has a fair claim to being the most dramatically improved player in the game this season. Much of that, he says, is down to being shunted to hooker last year. "It did me the world of good, because I started to know what forwards want from a scrum-half," Sheridan said.

Graham Murray, the coach who came up with that temporary switch, also has reason to reflect on its success. "I told him at the time that I didn't think he was a hooker, but that he wouldn't lose anything by it," Murray said. "The forwards say to me now that Ryan bosses them around and you can't get higher praise. They want to be told what to do and he's now got the confidence to do that."

The emergence of Sheridan as one of the most influential players in the country has been a big factor for Leeds on the road to Wembley, enabling them to shake off the suggestion that they rely exclusively on Iestyn Harris to direct them and create their attacking impetus.

Sheridan comes from Dewsbury, the west Yorkshire town that produces more than its share of players for Leeds, including Francis Cummins in the present team. At 16, Sheridan was snapped up by the Sheffield Eagles, but his five years there saw him struggle at times to escape from the shadow of Mark Aston, the veteran scrum-half who was man of the match

in the Eagles' shock Wembley victory over Wigan last year.

Sheridan was at a training camp in Tunisia with Leeds at the time, but still had sufficient gut feeling for his old club to phone home for a result that did not seem to figure on Tunisian television. "I phoned my mum and she told me the score. I didn't believe her and she had to tell me again, I was that surprised. But I was delighted for them."

Quite apart from any sentimental attachment to Sheffield, that result looms as a warning of unpredictable pitfalls, because Leeds are, if anything, even more overwhelming favourites for this year's Challenge Cup than Wigan were last year. Sheridan added: "It just shows that you can't take teams for granted. It's how much desire you have on the day, how much you want to win that cup. That's why Sheffield did it last year. I've watched it since and they wanted it more on the day."

Sheridan is involved with Leeds this year - rather than Sheffield last year - because of Gary Hetherington. The founder of the Eagles moved across to Leeds in 1996 and brought a nucleus of Sheffield players with him, including Sheridan, Dean Lawford and Anthony Farrell. "It was quite funny the way it happened. I was in the gym and everyone told me I was off to Leeds. I was the only one who didn't know about it," Sheridan said.

Not that Sheridan objected to a move to one of the potential powerhouses of the game. Although he grew up in Dewsbury admiring Wigan more than any other club, Leeds was always the big-city, glamour club on the horizon.

Like a few of Hetherington's other signings, it took a while for the logic behind it to become apparent. It is only this season that he has graduated from being a reliable squad member to becoming a central figure in the way the team play. That was seen perhaps to best effect in his man-of-the-match performance as Leeds knocked Wigan out of the Cup.

"But the thing is to be consistent - to keep up that standard week after week. I had a good off- season on the weights and I've learnt so much this season from Graham - a lot of it about things you wouldn't even think about."

It has not come as a surprise to Murray. "It's been a natural progression for him; he's just been getting better and better," said the Leeds coach, a skilful and intelligent half-back himself during his playing days in Australia. "He's still got that little bit of individual flair about him, but he works so well for the team now."

That combination could see Sheridan, still only 23, pushing for international recognition at the end of this season - and that is a target he has consciously set himself. "My first aim is to carry on playing well for Leeds, but obviously I'd like to play internationally," Sheridan said. "There are a lot of good scrum-halves around, like Sean Long at St Helens and Tony Smith coming back for Wigan. And Shaun Edwards has got buckets of experience."

Quite apart from the 25,000 fans from Leeds who will be making the trip down the M1 next weekend, there will be a few southern voices raised on Sheridan's behalf as he goes into battle with Edwards, who is doubtful with a broken thumb, or Glen Air. "I've got a lot of relatives in London and they're all going to be there."

With Ryan Sheridan and his friends from the north, they have every prospect of being part of Leeds' first Challenge Cup triumph for 21 years.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all