NEXT month’s World Club Challenge has brought “focus” to Leeds Rhinos’ pre-season, star winger Ryan Hall reckons.
Rhinos will face NRL champions Melbourne Storm at their AAMI Park on Friday, February 16.
It is set to be a rapid return Down Under for Hall who spent a month there during England’s recent World Cup campaign, but he insisted he is looking forward to going back.
“It is going to be a focus point for us,” he stressed. “We’ve been in this situation before and we’ve played it good and bad in previous years.
“The 2016 version against North Queensland, we weren’t really in a position to win that one with everything else going on around it.
“The last time we played Melbourne [in 2013], I always remember one vivid thing that happened that could have gone our way, but didn’t and we ended up losing the game.
“We made a line-break and it was two versus one against the full-back, but we dropped it cold.
“If we’d scored then we’d have been in command and it would have been a different sort of game.
“We just lost out in that game [18-14].
“We paid tribute to Melbourne for defending the way they did; they did really well and obviously we want to go there and make amends for that.
“We want to be in good shape, we don’t want to go there and be scratchy.”
That means Rhinos need to be on song from the start of the year. They have two Betfred Super League fixtures – away to Warrington Wolves and against Hull KR at Elland Road – before facing the Storm.
Hall added: “When we’ve not been in this situation you just go into the season to try to be as good as you can for as long as you can and that’s how the season goes, but there’s something to play for straight away and it gives us a bit of focus.”
Rhinos’ players will spend the night after the Hull KR game in a hotel at Manchester Airport before an early morning flight to Melbourne, arriving the following evening. They will then have just five full days before the match, but Hall insists it is not mission impossible.
He was a member of the England side which made a similar trip to Australia to face Samoa in a mid-season Test last year and stressed: “We are taking it on. We want to go and win. It’s a competitive game, it’s a World Club Challenge, we are Leeds Rhinos and we have got an ethos of winning as much as we can.”
Hall has declared himself in good shape after being back at training a week.
His last game of 2017 was the World Cup final on December 2, but is feeling rested despite the limited time off.
He insisted: “I’ve done the same for nine years so it’s no different to what I’m used to.
“I feel exactly like I did in previous years at this point.”
Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea centre Kato Ottio’s sudden death is thought to have been caused by severe heatstroke.
Ottio, who was due to travel to England today to begin his contract with Widnes Vikings, passed away at the Pacific International Hospital (PIH) in Port Moresby in the early hours of Tuesday local time.
The 23-year-old had earlier collapsed after taking part in an eight-kilometre road run with his former PNG Hunters team-mates. A post-mortem examination has been recommended.