Wembley win will be ‘hard to match’ for Rhinos

Adam Cuthbertson, right, celebrates Leeds Rhinos' Challenge Cup win with fellow Australian Mitch Garbutt.
Adam Cuthbertson, right, celebrates Leeds Rhinos' Challenge Cup win with fellow Australian Mitch Garbutt.
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YOU WOULD be forgiven for thinking Adam Cuthbertson has already tasted enough glory in his first season in England.

The Australian prop played at Wembley and lifted the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup with Leeds Rhinos on Saturday just a few months after leaving his homeland.

Thousands of players have featured here for years and not done either.

Yet the appetite is clearly not sated and, given the style of their football and command of vanquished Hull KR at the weekend, it is no surprise that all Leeds eyes have turned to completing a ‘treble’ and confirming they are the best side yet to emerge from Headingley.

The squad was back in training yesterday after the celebrations of the weekend and Friday’s visit from champions St Helens is now uppermost in their thoughts.

If Rhinos win, they will go six points clear at the top with just three games remaining if Wigan Warriors lose against Catalans the following day, making them firm favourites to lift the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time since 2009.

They would then be just 80 minutes away from another Grand Final.

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” admitted Cuthbertson, on the Wembley triumph after Leeds had destroyed Rovers 50-0.

“It’s going to be hard to match that for the first of the year but I’m sure we can.

“We’ve got a great team here and I truly believe that anything is possible with this exceptional group of players at this club.

“Mitch (Garbutt) and I have been taking the mick out of Kevin Sinfield, though, saying ‘how easy is this to win? I’ve had 28 games and Mitch has had eight!’”

Leeds captain Sinfield, 34, of course spent most of his career chasing the Challenge Cup before finally lifting it last year.

Given he is moving to Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of the season, he won’t get the chance to play in the World Club Series, but Cuthbertson certainly will.

He will now play some of his fellow countrymen at the start of next season as victory confirmed Leeds’s place in the 2016 World Club Series when an NRL club will play them at Headingley as part of the annual six-team competition.

Cuthbertson, 30, will hope to be a Grand Final champion by then, too, with Old Trafford next on his list of major venues to experience.

With his off-loading class, robust defence and general toughness, the recruit from Newcastle Knights has proved a massive hit already in Leeds colours and helped bring a whole new attacking dimension to Brian McDermott’s side, unlocking yet more three-quarters talent from the likes of Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon and Tom Briscoe.

Briscoe looks to continue his try-scoring feats against St Helens on Friday having claimed the Lance Todd Trophy for his five-try spectacular versus Hull KR.

“I’m so pleased for Tom,” admitted Cuthbertson, about the England winger who had spent most of the season on the sidelines following shoulder surgery.

“He’s had a tough year with his injuries and the way he’s bounced back has been incredible.

“I said to him afterwards, ‘How do you do it?’ He’s come back so strongly and it’s a tough ask to get yourself back after a shoulder injury but he’s done it so well.

“He didn’t have simple scores – he created a lot from nothing – and it’s really pleasing for us all to see him come back from a mid-season injury like that and put in a performance like that at Wembley in a major final.”

Last season, when Leeds at last ended their quest for the Cup after losing six successive finals since 1999, the wheels spectacularly came off their campaign.

They did not secure another point, losing all four games including a sudden death play-off at home to unfancied Catalans Dragons, the emotional aspect of relieving all that Cup anguish apparently derailing everything.

In total, it was a staggering six successive league defeats, something that had not happened to Leeds in the summer era.

Few believe the same will happen in 2015 with Leeds in a far stronger position at the top of the division and seemingly approaching the peak of their powers.

They have no fresh injury concerns and Cuthbertson admitted: “It has a really special feel about it, this group. It’s one of those teams who seem to have everyone’s back all the time. When stuff hits the fan we never panic, we fix it and tighten up immediately.

“When you’ve got a squad like that it’s a very special feeling and a privilege to be involved in.”

n Mark Aston says releasing 10 players from Sheffield Eagles has been one of the most “difficult” times of his coaching career.

The decision is mainly due to the South Yorkshire club going full-time next season, and many players already having work commitments in place.

Scott Turner, Sam Smeaton, Dominic Brambani, James Davey, Pat Walker, Tony Tonks, Jamie Langley, Eddie Battye, Loto Tagaloa and Ben Musolino will all be leaving once the Super 8s Qualifiers are concluded.