Dave Craven: Could Wembley offer a silver lining for Leeds supporters?

Leeds Rhinos fans.
Leeds Rhinos fans.
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Some Leeds Rhinos fans might actually dread them winning the Grand Final.

It seems absurd as, after all, being crowned champions is what everyone ultimately aims for and one of the principal reasons for playing the sport.

However, the last two times Brian McDermott’s side have triumphed at Old Trafford has seen them struggle badly in the subsequent campaign.

People thought 2016 – when the defending champions endured a miserable season, finishing ninth and facing the ignominy of the Qualifiers – would be a bizarre one-off, an anomaly of sorts.

But it wasn’t. Admittedly, matters did return to normal when Leeds followed up their dice with relegation by immediately winning again at Old Trafford in 2017.

However, yet again, following on from that, the crown has sat heavy on their head once more.

Thursday’s abject 46-8 loss at Wigan was a seventh consecutive Super League defeat.

It is the first time during the summer era they have successively lost so many league matches in one season alone.

Admittedly, Leeds have been competitive for much of this season illustrated by the fact that four of their 11 league defeats have been suffered by just a solitary point. They have had their fair share of issues with injuries this term as well but that cannot forever be used as an excuse.

Indeed, the side they fielded at Wigan on Thursday had plenty of experience and quality within it, which is why you can understand coach Brian McDermott saying he was “concerned” afterwards.

Previously, often he had remained positive following defeats, encouraged by certain aspects of his squad’s performance.

But this meek display was undoubtedly a worry; Leeds will face some massive tests ahead in the coming weeks and this performance will have done little to persuade McDermott they are ready for them.

Rhinos need to emerge from the rut quickly but – beleaguered, down on morale – where will it come from?

They head to Castleford on Sunday week which will be another thorough examination before hosting Wakefield Trinity.

Then they entertain bottom club Widnes Vikings – could Rhinos legend Francis Cummins be the man to put a further spanner in the works? – before rounding off at Salford Red Devils who are similarly fighting to avoid the jeopardy of the bottom four.

At these times, inevitably, there are calls for changes at the top and even McDermott – despite his remarkable record for the club that includes four Super League titles – is not immune from that.

He has been in the role now for eight seasons. Some believe a coach should never spend that long in any one job because of the risk staleness comes in.

But it is hard to imagine Rhinos ever parting company with the 48-year-old unless it was on his own terms.

Leeds were nine points adrift of the top-four ahead of this latest round of action.

Even if they do manage to claim a place in the top-eight ahead of the split, even with their love of a late surge, there is seemingly no chance they can rescue a semi-final place from there so the campaign could peter out.

Of course, though, there is another semi-final looming – the Challenge Cup against Warrington Wolves on August 5.

Amid all this, malaise it would be no surprise to see Leeds cause an upset there. And then go to Wembley and win again.