LEEDS RHINOS’ Paul Aiton admits being a frustrated spectator of the World Club Series will drive the club on to continue their 100 per cent start to the Super League season.
The Papuan hooker lines up against Huddersfield Giants this evening looking for a third successive win in the competition.
They had last weekend off due to the inaugural World Club Series which Leeds – three times winners of the World Club Challenge – missed due to their disappointing sixth-place finish in 2014.
In the expanded version, Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors narrowly missed out versus St George Illawarra and Brisbane Broncos respectively before St Helens were comprehensively defeated 39-0 in the finale against NRL premiers South Sydney.
“Every team wants to be in that and, for me, just watching it made me feel like I really want to be a part of it next year,” said former Cronulla Sharks star Aiton.
“It’s a pretty good concept and just a shame this season it ended 3-0. They (Australians) play a different type of football but it’s not as big a gap between the NRL and Super League as some people are saying – it’s tough there and here.
“But if we want to play in it next season it’s all the more important to have a good start now and we want to continue that Thursday.
“We’re not used to having a week off so early in the year so we’re pretty keen to get going again against Huddersfield.”
Huddersfield, initially in line for the WCS having finished third last season only to then miss out after losing against Wigan and Catalan in the play-offs, are still yet to pick up a win having been defeated by Hull FC and Wigan again.
However, they have a formidable record of late against their West Yorkshire rivals having won on each of their last four trips to Headingley. Furthermore, they are undefeated in their last seven meetings with Leeds whose last victory against the Giants was a 34-28 away play-off success in 2011.
Aiton added: “We know how desperate they will be, too, coming off the back of two defeats.
“They are a quality team and we know they pose dangers.
“We had a look at the way we wanted to play in the off-season and improving our skills was a big part of that. We’re playing a more expansive style and it suits us.”
The 29-year-old is aiding that process. He was restricted to a periphery role for Brian McDermott’s side at times last year after joining from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, mainly due to missing three months through illness.
However, Aiton has started in both the opening wins over Hull KR and Widnes Vikings, looking particularly sprightly.
“I’m pretty happy with the start of the season, while it’s good to have that dummy-half role and to be starting games,” he added.
“It’s something I was used to before I came to Leeds and it’s great to be able to do it again.
“I’ll play wherever Mac tells me, but I think it does suit me better starting.
“It was a very disruptive year for me last time but I’ve managed to have a good pre-season and now I’m looking forward to a solid campaign.”
Huddersfield head coach Paul Anderson, however, believes his squad are primed to deliver after battling hard at Wigan after a woeful 19-0 home loss to Hull on the opening weekend.
“I feel like we’re ready to play,” he said, as they seek a first win in five games dating back to last September. I thought we made improvements in our last game. I thought the team that beat the Giants that day was probably the Giants, in a lot of respects.
“There were four blatant opportunities to score tries and we dropped the ball over the line.
“I thought for 60 minutes we were well in control.
“But in the last 20 minutes we decided not to play with the ball. We know if we can handle the ball, keep hold of it and come up with some things and play with patience, that has to be the key for us.
“But we know we will have to be at or somewhere near our best to win there (Headingley).”
Kyle Wood, another hooker and a former Trinity team-mate of Aiton’s, comes into his squad.
Second-rowers Matt Cook and Mike McMeeken, both signed from London Broncos, are set for their Castleford Tigers debuts after being drafted into the 19-man squad for tomorrow night’s trip to champions St Helens.