McGuire talks up Rhinos faithful
Danny McGuire believes the Headingley crowd can provide Leeds Rhinos with “an extra man” when they take on Melbourne in the PROBIZ World Club Challenge tomorrow night.
As a passionate Leeds United fan, McGuire loved the opportunity to run out at Elland Road for four of the Rhinos’ previous five global challenges but admits playing on their home turf proved crucial 12 months ago when they beat Manly Sea Eagles.
McGuire, who will make his 300th appearance for his hometown club tomorrow, says the Leeds players have had this fixture on their minds ever since they retained their Super League crown at Old Trafford in October.
“You win the Grand Final and you’re waiting in anticipation for this game,” he said. “This is number six for me and I’ve enjoyed every one.
“They’ve all been special in their own way but last year it was obviously good playing it at Headingley for the first time.
“The atmosphere was unbelievable to say there were 20,000 in. It felt like a 60,000 crowd and the intensity was up there with a semi-final or a final. It’s going to be similar on Friday.
“Once the crowd in the South Stand get behind you, it’s like having an extra player out there. They do lift you when it’s needed. Some of the Melbourne players might be surprised by the noise.”
British clubs have won 12 of the 18 matches since 1987, invariably making full use of home advantage, but McGuire believes Melbourne have demonstrated they mean business.
“Obviously it’s weighted in our favour,” he said. “But I think Melbourne have come over ready to play. They had a trial game before they came over and they’ve given themselves nearly two weeks' preparation.
“We’ve had three Super League games so I’d imagine we’ll be a little bit more match sharp but you’ve only to look at their players and realise what a great team they have.”
Leeds go into the game without three members of their Grand Final-winning team in full-back Zak Hardaker, winger Ben Jones-Bishop and prop Ryan Bailey - and with a shock defeat at Castleford Tigers still fresh in the memory.
“We probably could have been in a bit better place, if we’re honest,” McGuire admitted. “We haven’t played as well as we would have liked and we’ve got a couple of injuries which is not ideal. But we’ll get on with it. We’ve got 25 or 26 players all capable of stepping in.
“Last year I don’t think we were in the best of shapes but we had a lot of desire. We didn’t want to lose and it was one of the reasons we managed to sneak a result on the night.”
Melbourne scrum-half Cooper Cronk, who played in his side’s loss to the Rhinos in 2008 but missed their victory three years ago because of injury, has billed tomorrow’s game a series decider.
“It’s going to be as intense as a State of Origin decider,” he said. “The English fans are more vocal than back in Australia and whoever wins this one wins the series because it’s one-all.”