School’s out forever for rising Leeds Rhinos star Morgan Gannon, but the 19-year-old is keen to continue learning as he prepares to play a pivotal role in his side’s new Betfred Super League season that kicks off on Thursday.
Gannon’s stirring progress through the Rhinos’ ranks went hand-in-hand with homework and revision sessions until he wrapped up his A levels with two As and a B last summer.
Now he has swapped the textbooks for the tutoring of head coach Rohan Smith, who has increasingly deployed the adaptable Gannon in a half-back role in order to test his potential for a permanent transition further down the line.
Gannon told the PA news agency: “This has been my first full pre-season without college and without having to turn up for training and still have homework on my mind.
“It’s tough to train and go to college at the same time, but it’s more about the mental benefit of being able to switch off after a tough session, or focus full-time on new ideas and perspectives.”
The half-back role may be one that Gannon last adopted in the under-13s with his amateur club Siddal, but Smith clearly sees potential there, having drafted him into the position for periods of a number of his side’s pre-season games.
And while Gannon, who made his Rhinos debut as a 17-year-old in 2021, has no specific ambitions of converting from his regular position in the back row, he is relishing the chance to make a bigger impression in a revitalised Rhinos side this season.
“It’s a different challenge, with the attacking mindset of being involved in every play and constantly thinking about the next one, so it’s been good for the concentration levels,” added Gannon.
“I think it’s good for my development, but I’ve only played a few games there and I think ultimately I will get to the point where the decision is made for me, that I either stick with it or stay in the back row.”
Gannon is set to feature in a potentially pivotal Super League opener on Thursday when the Rhinos travel to Warrington, another side smarting from an unsatisfactory 2022 campaign.
While the Rhinos were revitalised under Smith and ultimately went all the way to the Grand Final, Daryl Powell’s Wolves flopped to second bottom of the final table, but have impressively overhauled their pack.
The Rhinos have kept a relatively low profile in the close season, with Smith convinced of his methods, and Gannon is looking forward to the opportunity for his side to consign last season’s dismal start to the history books.
“We’re really feeling the benefit of our first full pre-season under Rohan,” added Gannon. “We’ve got a really strong group and a lot of young kids coming through who are really pushing everyone along.
“In both the seasons I’ve been involved with so far we haven’t made the best start, so we’re really keen to get out there and push strong through those first couple of rounds.”