Blunt-TALKING Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall admits the faltering champions currently “aren’t good enough” but insists they are not adopting a blasè attitude.
They face Bradford Bulls at Magic Weekend tomorrow knowing they will already have been edged out of the play-off places if Hull KR beat Hull FC this evening.
The West Yorkshire club has won just twice in its last seven Super League fixtures, worrying echoes of last year’s inconsistent form.
Back then, Leeds staged a remarkable recovery to climb to fifth and then became the first team to win the Grand Final from outside the top three.
After Monday’s 31-18 home loss versus St Helens, though, concerned coach Brian McDermott expressed his fear the side may be in a “comfort zone” thinking they could repeat that staggering feat.
But England winger Hall told the Yorkshire Post: “That’s definitely not the mentality we’ve got.
“Like last year, we all experienced it and we didn’t enjoy it at all. Even though we came out eventually as champions we did not enjoy the journey that got us there.
“So, we wanted a different season this year but, as it happens, we’ve gone about it exactly the same way as we did do last time and it’s not good enough.
“For Leeds standards, which have been really high in recent years, we’re just not good enough at the moment.”
It is certainly a frank and honest admission and Leeds’s bid for recovery will not be made any easier by tomorrow’s opponents.
Bradford inflicted one of those defeats in that recent dire run when they stunned the champions 12-4 at Odsal on Good Friday.
They have not beaten Leeds twice in a season since winning the 2005 Grand Final but, if they do that tomorrow, will pull three points clear of their neighbours and heap on more pressure.
“We’ve got some hard work building up to this,” admitted Hall. “Bradford beat us last time and we’ve got to rebound off what happened against Saints.
“We blew some opportunities to apply pressure and had some bad images to look at in the video.
“But we’ve had to grin and bear it, get it through the system, digest it and move on.
“That’s the best way to do it – face our fears – and we’ve also been looking at where we went wrong last time at Odsal.”
When asked if he could put his finger on what exactly is going wrong, Hall said: “I could put my hand on five things. It’s something we’ll get right and turn it round.
“Hopefully we’ll do it sharper than what we did last year as well.
“When you look at the table there’s a bit of a gap going on before the jump up to the top couple of teams. We’re just so disappointed we’re not amongst that.
“We’re putting in the effort but the quality we’re displaying is just not there at the moment.
“Hopefully it will be on Sunday. We’ve never lost a Magic Weekend and want to keep that record.”
Magic Weekend is particularly meaningful for Hall given he made his Leeds debut in the inaugural event at Cardiff – and possibly the most controversial game in Super League history.
Although he is now regarded as the world’s greatest winger, when he faced Bradford there in 2007, Hall was just the latest rookie off the Headingley production line.
When, an hour before kick-off, it emerged the 19-year-old was in Tony Smith’s squad, Sky pundit Barrie McDermott was busily asking former Leeds colleagues what he could actually say about the teenager when it came to his commentary. One of the few responses was “He played for Oulton Raiders amateur club.”
By the end, though, it was irrelevant as there was only one thing people were talking about – “Gansongate” and the infamous dramatic finish which saw hugely fortunate Leeds take a 42-38 success against their fierce derby foes.
Kevin Sinfield’s wrongly-awarded last-gasp penalty struck the crossbar and Jordan Tansey – from an offside position – followed up to score the match-winning try.
Hall, who has since recorded an astonishing 122 tries in just 141 appearances for his hometown club, recalled: “I was due to be 18th man and had been quite a few times already that year.
“I went about things my usual way and then a couple of days before the game one of the lads pulled out so I slotted in.
“I’m obviously grateful for it but it does seem a distant memory now. I got 20 minutes at the back end of the first Millennium Magic and it ended quite well for us.”
A wry smile emerges across his face. What was Tansey’s reaction afterwards when in the inner sanctum of the victorious Leeds dressing room? Presumably he knew he was offside?
“I can’t remember what he said exactly but I do remember that I was five metres behind him – and I was onside,” he says.
“That’s my story from that game but it’s in the past now and we’ve got to look forward to Sunday.”
Ben Jones-Bishop, who scored a hat-trick as Leeds beat Bradford at Millennium Magic last year but was dropped for Saints, returns in place of Weller Hauraki.