Hull KR v Leeds Rhinos: McDermott out to put last season behind refreshed Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos new signing Adam Cuthbertson.
Leeds Rhinos new signing Adam Cuthbertson.
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LEEDS RHINOS head coach Brian McDermott needs no reminding of how last season ended.

For all they lifted the Challenge Cup for the first time in 15 years, the club’s Super League campaign fizzled out in embarrassing fashion with an unrecognisable six successive losses.

It has been a long wait to be given the chance to remedy that. Almost five months, in fact.

So, perhaps more than anyone, he is keen to get going again and eradicate those painful memories for the former champions.

Their opening game is at Hull KR tomorrow and, after a winter of reflection and recalibrating, McDermott believes his squad is in the right state – physically and mentally – to show their true colours once more.

“You can never tell and we are all winners in pre-season – nobody loses any points then,” he said.

“But you have got to be in reasonable shape to start with and there’s certainly going to be some challenges in the first six, seven or eight rounds.

“We need to be in good nick at this stage of the season and we are.

“We’re healthy and we’ve had a pretty thorough pre-season and a pretty tough one, emotionally as well as physically because of how last season finished.

“If anything, we are very, very excited about what it might look like this year.

“We’ve gone through a little bit of a transition about what we want to do on the field, especially in attack and let’s hope some of those things bear fruit for the first five or six rounds.

“I am sure there’ll be some obstacles and some teething problems, but no matter what’s in front of you, you have to get to day one of the season, at the end of pre-season, in good nick, fitness-wise, structurally and in your own mind.

“Are we happy with how it’s all going?

“So far we are heading where we want to be.”

Whereas Leeds have made just one new signing for 2015 –the Australian prop Adam Cuthbertson from Newcastle Knights, who makes his debut tomorrow – their hosts tomorrow have recruited an entire side with 13 arrivals.

Understandably, that in itself creates problems for McDermott when preparing his side for the challenge. “I think they are an unknown entity,” he admitted. “In terms of how they are going to play and how they are going to defend, there’s some difficulty in that.

“But in fact it is going to put us on our guard – and we need to be on our guard.

“Hull KR is one of the tougher grounds to go to.

“It’s always hard to go to Wigan and Saints and get a win, but they are good places to play as well,” he said.

“People talk about Headingley and say they like to come to Headingley, even though it’s going to be be a tough day.

“But at Hull KR the dressing rooms are like a matchbox.

“It’s hard to get anything from our crowd because they put them in East Hull somewhere and they have to watch the game from four miles away!

“So it is a tough place to go and we’ve got them early in the season again, in the first round like we did last year.

“It is going to be cold and frosty and windy, like it always is.

“They have new staff and new players and we don’t know what to expect, but we do know it’s going to be a tough day.

“I think if you go over there with a right attitude that’s important, it is a big part of the day getting your attitude right.”

Leeds are aided by the fact they have little absenteeism ahead of the opener.

“We are only missing Brett Delaney through injury,” said McDermott, about the durable Australian second-row who has become such a fixture of his Leeds side.

“He had knee surgery in the off-season and whilst our physio Andy Barker has now given him the all-clear, he’s not been able to do much running in pre-season.

“So, we will give him a bit more time to get right for the challenges of Super League.

“He will probably miss the first two games, then we have a week off for the World Club Series, and I would expect him to be back in contention the week after that to face Huddersfield.

“He is important to what we are about but it is key to get him right.”