Hull Kingston Rovers v London Broncos: New start enables Mitch Garbutt to impress for Robins

LOOKING around the early weeks of Super League few players have made a more impressive impact than Hull KR’s revitalised Mitch Garbutt.

Hull KR's Mitch Garbutt. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

The powerful Australian prop has certainly had an instant positive influence on his new club following a surprise switch from Leeds Rhinos.

There was a man-of-the-match display in the derby win over Hull FC on opening night when the charging 29-year-old played like a whirling dervish.

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He was similarly all-action in the 28-14 defeat at Warrington last weekend and is both the competition’s leading metre-maker (328) and top carrier (50).

Tomorrow’s opponents London Broncos will undoubtedly have marked the fired-up player on their tip-sheet ahead of the KCOM Craven Park contest.

It looks like Garbutt is out to prove a point or two.

He famously won the Challenge Cup, League Leaders’ Shield and Grand Final during his first 14 games after joining Leeds from Brisbane Broncos in 2015 and was under contract this term.

The former Melbourne Storm front-row was essentially moved on, though, to make way for ‘marquee’ signing Trent Merrin, the former Kangaroo forward, as part of new coach Dave Furner’s Headingley revamp.

Mitch Garbutt is tackled by Scott Taylor, Sika Manu & Danny Washbrook. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

But on his thoughts ahead of the campaign kick-off, Garbutt insisted: “I was just looking forward to starting afresh again.

“I wanted to get a good pre-season in and I’m probably a lot fitter this year than I have been in previous years. There was no pressure really. I was just happy to get the season started.

“But on a personal note, it is probably the best shape I’ve been in since I started playing professionally, to be honest.

“The performance staff at Hull KR must take a lot of credit for that. They’ve monitored a lot of things and are on top of my training. It’s been good.”

Life as a Robin could not have started much better than with a last-minute derby win over Hull FC at a sold-out Craven Park in which he also scored.

“It was probably the best one to start with, I think,” admitted Garbutt, who won a Grand Final with Leeds again in 2017 before their form nosedived last term.

“To get the win was special and for it to be on my debut as well it was probably as good as they come.

“We were disappointed to lose that game against Warrington last week, but we got a lot out of it and we’re now looking forward to London on Sunday.”

He will face another player who has made a lightning start in the shape of Eddie Battye.

The former Sheffield Eagles prop, whose family own a buffalo farm near Barnsley, scored two tries against Wakefield on his belated Super League debut at the age of 27.

It is another reminder of the talent that is coursing through the Championship and Garbutt admitted: “He’s played really well and you have to give him a lot of credit; on performances he’s probably one of the form props in the competition.

“He got two tries in his first Super League game as well, so he’ll be happy with that.

“Even last year in those (Middle) Eights he was playing a lot of good rugby. Good on him and it’s good to see.”

Garbuttt, meanwhile, is relishing being back in situ with some of his former Leeds team-mates in East Yorkshire.

His 2017 Grand Final-winning captain Danny McGuire is leading Rovers around with his usual aplomb, while fellow prop Robbie Mulhern has earned England recognition since leaving Headingley. Jimmy Keinhorst also made the switch in the autumn and scored the match-winning try on his own debut against Hull.

“I have to be careful what I say about Mags (McGuire) as he’s sat next to me while I’m doing this interview and I don’t want him getting a big head,” said Garbutt.

“He’s still got it, hasn’t he? It’s been really good.

“I’ve got a good relationship with all the ex-Leeds players who are here so to join up with them again has been really good.”

Garbutt, of course, gained notoriety when he became only the second player ever to be sent-off in a World Club Challenge, red-carded for punching James Talou during Leeds’s 38-4 loss to North Queensland Cowboys in 2016.

How does he think tomorrow’s contest between Sydney Roosters and Wigan Warriors will pan out?

He said: “I honestly don’t know, but I think they (Roosters) might have a bit too much.

“They’re a pretty good side aren’t they? A pretty special side. Wigan will be in there to the end, though. They’ll be tough to beat.”