THEY won the game against them that mattered most – the Grand Final – but for Leeds Rhinos’ Brad Singleton that is not enough as his side renew acquaintances with Castleford Tigers tomorrow for the first time since that Old Trafford night.
The Wheldon Road fixture is, of course, merely a friendly as both clubs prepare for the start of the new Super League season next month.
However, that does not mean there isn’t plenty at stake.
Castleford, the rampant 2017 League Leaders’ Shield winners, will certainly want to make an impression especially after their spectacular no-show in Manchester when the big favourites were surprisingly beaten 24-6 by their derby neighbours.
But Leeds, too, are eager to now back-up that famous victory – and make up some lost ground.
Prop Singleton told The Yorkshire Post: “With Cas it’s always a big occasion now with the form they’ve been in for the last couple of years.
They beat us eight times on the bounce before that Grand Final so really it’s just 8-1; in our heads, we still need to do a job on them.Leeds Rhinos’ Brad Singleton
“They beat us eight times on the bounce before that Grand Final so really it’s just 8-1; in our heads, we still need to do a job on them.
“I don’t feel like we’ve got one over them even though we did at Old Trafford and it was a fantastic win.
“They’re still 8-1 ahead so we know we have to go there and put in a good performance and a positive result.
“We’re looking forward to this new season and we’ll want to end it like we ended the last one.
“But at the same time we want consistency especially from the off. We need to start well and there’s no reason why not. I think the people we’ve brought in – Richie Myler, Brad Dwyer and Nathaniel Peteru – mean we have a great foundation to have a good season throughout.”
All three of those new signings will feature tomorrow, former Gold Coast Titans prop Peteru getting his first run-out in blue and amber, while 13 of the Grand Final-winning squad are named by head coach Brian McDermott.
Similarly, Castleford coach Daryl Powell has put out a strong squad including England World Cup duo Luke Gale and Mike McMeeken plus new recruits Joe Wardle, Garry Lo, James Green, James Clare and former Rhinos half-back Cory Aston
Leeds finished second last term, fully 10 points behind Castleford, but managed to find the right consistency at the right time to deliver an eighth Super League title since 2004.
It was Cumbrian Singleton’s second having also played in the 2015 success but the 25 year-old admitted: “This last one has definitely been my best year.
“It was a lot better than the win in ‘15; my role was bigger and the treble was probably won when I was a bit too young.
“It was more for those older blokes (Kevin Sinfield, Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock).
“But the ’17 win feeling was tremendous and the foundations have now been set for this year.”
Academy product Singleton did, indeed, prosper last term, starting 27 games and establishing himself with some career-best form that was then carried onto the World Cup with Ireland.
He helped them shock Italy in Cairns and vanquish Wales at Perth, their only defeat a narrow reverse to Papua New Guinea in the colourful and atmospheric Port Moresby.
“It was great, a really good experience for me,” said Singleton, a former England Academy captain.
“It was my first taste of action for Ireland. They’re an awesome group of lads and you could see we all had a dig. I just loved to see how big it got over there – the occasion in Australia – and it’s on us now when we hold the next World Cup in 2021 to try and match that. It was just a shame we didn’t get through.”
Like many of the Ireland squad, the robust forward caught the eye of Australian onlookers.
Would he ever consider a switch Down Under like many of his peers have started to do?
“I’m contracted here (until 2019) so I don’t know,” said Singleton, whose explosive, no-nonsense approach would perhaps be suited to the NRL.
“Maybe one day I’ll have a punt over there just to see how it goes and where I’m at.
“But not in the near future I don’t think.”
For now, he is rightly enjoying his time as a main contributor for Leeds which, for a long time, was not always the case.
“I always backed myself but to say things weren’t going too well would be right,” he said, about his early days at Headingley.
“I went on loan to Wakefield (in 2013) and that was a wake-up call; I only had one game and the next game he (Richard Agar) wasn’t going to use me.
“But I was always confident in what role I could do here and hopefully I can get better and better.”