Clubcall decision revs up Rhinos
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott believes his in-form team can make Warrington Wolves regret their decision to opt to play them in tomorrow’s first Engage Super League qualifying semi-final.
The Wolves earned the right to choose their opponents under the Clubcall system and McDermott says their selection will give the Rhinos extra motivation in their bid to reach the Grand Final.
“There is a big gut feeling about a group of people saying 'we don’t think you’re as strong as the other team’,” he said.
“That will have a bearing no matter what I’m trying to say to the players and no matter how much they talk about it not really having a bearing.”
The free-scoring Wolves have scored 82 points in two Super League meetings with Leeds since routing them 30-6 at Wembley last year but McDermott’s men began the season with key players Jamie Peacock and Danny McGuire on the injury list.
Their return gradually helped turn around the club’s fortunes and the Rhinos have begun to hit their straps with four handsome wins since losing to Wigan Warriors in the Carnegie Challenge Cup final, form McDermott believes makes them serious title contenders.
“When we played Warrington early in the league, we were clearly out of sorts and then, later on, we hadn’t got certain individuals back from injury and were still clearly doing things wrong,” he said.
“But I would have had some doubts about choosing us now because of some of the stuff we’re doing. Six weeks previously there would have been less of a doubt.”
Warrington captain Adrian Morley, who began his professional career with Leeds, has been impressed with their recent form and is also acutely aware of the danger they pose at this time of the year, having claimed a hat-trick of Grand Final victories up to 2009.
“They have been great since the Challenge Cup final,” acknowledged Morley.
“They have been the form team in Super League. They are a club who have been used to playing in these big games and finals over the last half a dozen years. They know how to perform on the big stage so it’s going to be tough.”
Morley is relishing the opportunity to lock horns with old adversary Peacock, whom he believes is currently playing his best rugby of the season.
“After a pretty major injury, he’s done fantastically well not to just get back playing but to get back to playing some of his best stuff,” Morley said.
“I’ve watched Jamie Peacock with interest and in the last few weeks he’s been absolutely outstanding, so well done to Jamie. He will be desperate to get out there on Friday and have a big performance.
“I do enjoy playing against him because he’s the best about and you enjoy challenging yourself against the best players in your position.”
Back-row forward Ali Lauitiiti is hoping to get the chance to become Leeds’ first overseas player for 54 years to make 200 appearances for the club.
The former New Zealand international, who is joining Wakefield Trinity Wildcats next season, chalked up his 199th appearance in the Rhinos’ 34-28 win over Huddersfield Giants last Friday.
Lauitiiti joined Leeds from Auckland Warriors seven years ago, making his debut in a 34-6 home win over Salford City Reds in May 2004, and has become the club’s most successful overseas player, having won four Grand Finals, two League Leaders Shields and a World Club Challenge.