LIVEWIRE hooker Matt Parcell admits he still harbours NRL ambitions but steering Leeds Rhinos to silverware is his principal aim.
There was fears for fans of the Headingley club when James Segeyaro, the influential Papua New Guinea No 9, refused to return to the UK for pre-season training ahead of this campaign.
However, Parcell, brought in at short notice from Manly Sea Eagles, has been a brilliant replacement and has proved to be one of Super League’s best signings in 2017.
Certainly, his clever dummy-half play has been a big reason behind Leeds’ return to the top end of the table after last year’s battle against relegation.
Furthermore, he has already scored 13 tries and is the competition’s top tackler.
Leeds head to Wakefield Trinity on Saturday looking for a win that will keep them close to four points of leaders Castleford Tigers.
Asked if he imagined returning to the Australian competition at some point – he made just 21 appearances for Brisbane and Manly – Parcell said: “Obviously, I would like to go back to the NRL one day but I’m just concentrating on doing well here with Leeds.
“I have settled in well and I thought I’d like it here. Leeds’ style suits me and I’m enjoying my football.
“Things are going well. It’s been a pretty tough period with three games in eight days and that is unusual.
“It’s not something you’d get in the NRL but it’s a good test for us to see how we back up and we’re all looking forward to Saturday now.”
After a seven-game winning run, fourth-placed Wakefield are level on points with Leeds, who are directly above them in the table.
Parcell, contracted at Headingley until the end of 2019, said: “They are playing well and got a great win at the weekend over at Salford.
“Obviously we’ve played them once before so we know a bit about them (Leeds won 38-14).
“I don’t know any of their Aussie lads personally but (David) Fifita goes well and it’s unfortunate Jacob Miller’s just broken his leg.
“They’re on a good run but we’re looking to string our own run together now and are looking forward to going over there.
“In the scheme of things in the top four, we know it’s very important to get a win.”
The 24-year-old was recommended to Rhinos by Ben Walker, the Australian stand-off who played for Leeds in 2002 and was his coach at Ipswich Jets, Brisbane’s feeder club.
“He spoke well of the place having spent a year here himself and I’d heard plenty of good things,” added Parcell.
“The thing I really enjoy is the fans; they really get into the chanting while, in terms of the style, the freedom to play footy and what’s in front of you.”
Super League is getting more competitive, too, with the likes of second-placed Salford and Wakefield – so often perennial strugglers – challenging for the top four.
It shows that the competition could be getting more like the NRL where it is often cited a vast number of sides can challenge from one year to the next.
Parcell admitted: “It is good to see. Obviously, it’s my first year in Super League but I know that it is different to see the likes of Salford and Wakefield up there.
“Castleford are obviously the best team at the moment and deserve to be up there at the top.
“But we don’t mind others talking about them, Salford and Wakey. Hopefully, we can keep building steadily and by the back end of Super 8s and finals we’re really playing well.”
Castleford Tigers’ Kieran Gill has agreed a new one-year contract with the club despite being ruled out of the rest of the season.
Gill’s new deal will see him stay with the Tigers until the end of 2018 with the club holding the option to extend his contract a further two years.
The 21-year old impressed on loan with Oldham Roughyeds and made his Tigers debut against St Helens but sustained a first-half knee injury, which will see him sidelined for at least six months.
Widnes centre Chris Bridge has announced he will retire at the end of the season.
The 32-year-old has played 272 games during a career that has also seen him represent Bradford and Warrington but has struggled with injuries.
He helped Wolves win the 2009 Challenge Cup and also played international rugby league for Ireland and England.
Widnes have handed utility player Danny Craven a new deal for the 2018 season.