TOP OF the shop is the goal for Leeds Rhinos this year – an aim underlined today by chief executive Gary Hetherington.
Rhinos will take a three-point lead on the First Utility Super League table into Saturday’s showdown with Wigan Warriors in Newcastle.
That advantage could be down to one or as high as five by the time the dust settles on the forthcoming Magic Weekend, but Hetherington said Rhinos are determined to hang on to pole position for the rest of the year.
The league leaders’ shield is seen as the least important honour available to Super League clubs, but Hetherington insisted: “I’ve always thought it is the hardest of the three domestic trophies to win.
“This year you have to be consistent over 30 rounds of Super League and what has changed is there is now a record £100,000 to the winners, which is double what it was and is now the same as winning the Challenge Cup at Wembley. That is a considerable incentive. Also, there is a home semi-final, which is a major advantage in getting through to the Grand Final.
“And there is also a place in the World Club Championship for the league leaders. That’s why it’s so important to win it.”
Hetherington added: “In the past I don’t believe the achievement of being league leaders has been recognised enough. We are – and always have been – totally focused on trying to win the league leaders’ trophy.
“We were really disappointed we didn’t win it last year and I think if we had lost to St Helens in the Challenge Cup, we would probably have finished top of the table and had a good chance of winning the Grand Final.
“Whoever lost that day was going to have a good chance of doing both those things. There is no doubt the Challenge Cup had an affect on our end to the season last year.
“Winning the Challenge Cup, the league leaders’ trophy and the Grand Final is really difficult to do, but we are really focused on trying to achieve that.”