HAVING waited seven years to finally face his hometown club, Leeds Rhinos’ Brad Singleton admits being wary of what part-timers Barrow Raiders might actually do in tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup sixth round tie.
The proud Cumbrian, who played his junior football with Barrow Island before joining the Super League club in 2009, has long hoped to be drawn with them in the famous competition and gets the chance to play them at last at Headingley.
But Barrow have won all 13 of their competitive games this term and only trail high-profile League One leaders Toronto Wolfpack due to an inferior points difference.
Granted, no one expects them to shock Leeds, who Singleton helped win the competition when scoring a try in the record 50-0 Wembley annihilation of Hull KR in 2015.
However, the prop said: “I’ve been to watch them this year and they are just chewing sides up.
“They are too good for the league they are in – they and Toronto are smashing it.
They are too good for the league they are in – they and Toronto are smashing it. They will be in high spirits and confident so it’s up to us to sort that out.Leeds Rhinos’ Brad Singleton
“They will be in high spirits and confident so it’s up to us to sort that out.
“I made my debut in 2011 so whenever there’s been a Cup draw since then I’ve been waiting for this.
“I always wonder if we’ll pull Barrow and this time the stars were aligned and we have. I am glad it’s over here (at Headingley) because I think Craven Park would be a bit of a leveller.
“You take a few of these Aussie boys up there and you never know what you’re going to get! But I am chuffed with it and think it will be good for the town.
“At the minute everyone’s buzzing with the form they are in. They are on the rise and attendances are going up.
“I am just looking forward to it and hopefully it is a good day out for the town and a good game.”
Leeds, joint-third in Super League, faced League One opposition in the last round, defeating Doncaster having surged into a 44-4 lead at the break only to be embarrassed somewhat by ‘losing’ the second period 24-20.
Singleton added: “It’s a round further on from the Doncaster game, so the pressure is on a bit more and the crowds start to rise as questions are getting asked about the run we might be on.
“But Barrow are in form and they are unbeaten so you can’t underestimate them. I feel like we need to match them like we would any team, like they are a top-four team in Super League because you never know.
“It’s all on 80 minutes. Some of them might never play at Headingley again and this is like their Grand Final.”
Singelton is familiar with many of the Barrow players from playing with or against them at amateur level.
Winger/full-back Luke Cresswell is among those and Singleton is close friends with Max Wiper and Brett Carter, alongside Brad Marwood, son of Barrow Island coach and former Raiders star Dean Marwood.
“Brett and Max are injured at the minute and it’s a shame I’m not going to play against them,” Singleton said.
“But I know them throughout. I played with Olly Wilkes when I was (on loan) over at Wakefield and I feel like they’ve got a strong outfit.”
The 24-year-old is recently back from a six-game ban for elbowing Catalans Dragons star Greg Bird, playing his part in their win in France last Saturday when they over-turned a 22-12 deficit with a late rally to seal a hard-fought 30-24 victory.
“I don’t think that would have got replicated last year,” Singleton admitted.
“I feel like this side has moved on now and last week just showed the character we’ve got and how far we’ve come. To come up with a performance like we did midway through that second half is a credit to everyone from one to 17,” he said.
“Across the board we are getting to where we want to be, I think.
“We’re not there yet, but everyone’s excited about where we could get to.”
England second-row Brett Ferres returns to Leeds’s 19-man squad from a five-game ban.
Prop Mitch Garbutt is fit after concussion, Ryan Hall is back from international duty and 18-year-old Alex Sutcliffe is called up for the first time but England centre Kallum Watkins will not play.
Coincidentally, Leeds celebrated the 60th anniversary of their 1957 Challenge Cup final victory over Barrow earlier this week.
Keith McLellan, captain that day, and team-mate Lewis Jones alongside David Ward, who captained the 1977 winning side, and the late John Holmes also became the first players to be inducted into the new Leeds Rugby League hall of fame.