Mathers shares fans’ dismay as Wakefield and Leeds must wait

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SUPPORTERS were understandably frustrated by the postponement of last night’s Wakefield Trinity Wildcats v Leeds Rhinos game, but do not think the players themselves are not suffering similar feelings.

The fixture was called off before lunchtime yesterday after heavy snowfall and freezing conditions saw Wakefield’s Rapid Solicitors Stadium pitch deemed unplayable.

It has been rearranged for a 3.30pm kick-off tomorrow, once more subject to the wintry blasts which, surreally, threaten to stretch on past Easter.

It is the second Friday night game to be postponed this season after Hull FC v Bradford Bulls was called off after a tanker accident shut the M62 last month.

Many Leeds fans also missed their game at St Helens three weeks ago following another incident going the other way on the same motorway, the squad themselves narrowly avoiding the resultant traffic chaos.

Now this latest inclement weather has taken another victim and there will be the inevitable call to start the Super League season later to avoid such disruptions and perhaps improve the standard of some of the early games in the campaign.

However, we are nearly in April, more than a quarter of the way through the season, and still being hit by snow – how far can it be pushed back?

For Richard Mathers, the Wakefield full-back, it is all very annoying, but inevitable.

“It does affect your preparations,” he told the Yorkshire Post last night, as he started readying himself again for tomorrow’s game. “Everything is done and everyone is ready to go on match day and then you hear it’s off like this.

“Instead of having played, on Saturday we will now be looking to have a run through somewhere and it’ll have to be indoors in a gym given this weather.

“It is important, though, just to get our hands on the ball again before we take on Leeds.

“We have to get a session in and it’ll be the same for them, too.

“It’s far from ideal, but that’s what happens with the weather here.”

The experienced former Leeds, Wigan and Warrington player, who spent a spell in sun-kissed Queensland with NRL club Gold Coast Titans, accepts the unpredictable conditions do have an impact on the sport here as a spectacle.

“It’s played a part in some of the results so far,” he added.

“So much for summer rugby – and it does affect the product on the pitch but, then again, it affects both sides.

“You have got to adapt your game accordingly. We certainly can’t play like we’d like to on Sunday.

“At Wakefield, we like to promote the ball and throw it around a bit more, but we can’t do that in these conditions. I’ve always said there are three different stages to a season – you start off controlled at the beginning, then expansive in the middle and then wet-weather style at the back end.

“You have to be adaptable and used to playing in all the varied conditions.”

By the time kick-off hopefully arrives tomorrow afternoon, it will be nearly 48 hours on from the sides’ scheduled meeting time, but the challenge facing Wakefield will be no different.

Champions Leeds arrive on the back of a spirited win against Wigan and showing signs of going through the gears towards their best football once more.

Mathers conceded: “It will be a tough game.

“They’re in good form, their pack in particular, and on the back of that they have some world-class athletes.

“Jamie Peacock is arguably in career-best form and we’re under no illusions about what we’re going to face.

“But we’ve got a ‘no fear’ attitude and have run Leeds close a couple of times while winning down here last year too.

“We’re very much focusing on ourselves. Everyone in the competition knows what Leeds can do to you given an opportunity so it’s about negating their threats and working to your own strengths.

“It’s going to be an exciting game, a local derby and one we’re really looking forward to, more so now after this wait.”

Wakefield, struggling with some injuries, are seeking a first win in five games and are again without their injured talismanic scrum-half Tim Smith.

Many have questioned whether they can operate fully when shorn of the Australian’s services.

Mathers, 29, countered: “It’d be disrespectful on others to say we rely on him and we’re certainly not a one-man team.

“But, on the flip side, Timmy is crucial to what we do.

“Kyle Wood’s in there now and, even though he went off at half-time at Saints last week, I thought he was a real threat and he’s really stepped up in training too.

“We can’t rely on the same old players all the time and there’s a bit of extra pressure now for those taking those spots to raise their game.”

In the meantime, Mathers spent a little longer yesterday trying to polish up his golf skills.

An avid player, he is regularly ‘heard’ on Twitter organising events and games with fellow Super League players, not least Catalan Dragons duo Steve Menzies and Leon Pryce.

“They’re an hour from the border of Spain and have some really nice courses over there,” he said.

“We get a lot of pictures on Twitter of them playing in the sun so you do get a bit envious. Good luck to them, I suppose. I’ve been up on the simulator at Leeds Golf Centre instead. Golf is completely out of the window here.”

Hopefully, at the second attempt, that won’t be the same fate that awaits Wakefield’s much-anticipated Super League derby with their old West Yorkshire rivals.