Leeds Rhinos identify new Sporting Director with Salford Red Devils man primed for role

Leeds Rhinos are close to finalising a deal to make Ian Blease their new Sporting Director. Rugby League Live can reveal that Salford Red Devils' Director of Rugby & Operations has been identified as their top target and are expected to secure a deal imminently.

Blease, who has held his role at Salford for over seven years, has been credited with overseeing a highly successful period of recruitment at the Reds during a time when the club has regularly signed up players on free transfers and sold them for considerable fees.

Over the years, Salford has sold the likes of Gareth O'Brien, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Jackson Hastings, Tyler Dupree, Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers. Yet during his time with the Reds, Salford have regularly competed at the right end of the table, making two major finals despite being one of the lowest-spending clubs in the competition.

That has caught the attention of the Rhinos who are understood to have made Blease their priority after announcing their intentions to appoint a Sporting Director, a role that will see him oversee the club's entire rugby department.

According to a club statement, the Sporting Director "will oversee the Rugby League operation, providing leadership for the coaching and playing staff in line with the club’s strategy and vision, management of salary cap compliance, player and staff recruitment and retention, and the youth development and medical departments."

Blease has a long association with Salford, having played for the club almost 250 times during the 80s and 90s. Before taking up his role with Salford in 2016, he worked on the other side of recruitment as an agent.

His immediate objective will be to oversee an improvement at first-team level, with the Rhinos currently outside of the play-offs despite a heavy recruitment drive in the off-season, which ironically included the purchases of Croft and Ackers from Salford.