BRIAN McDERMOTT admits Leeds Rhinos’ 28-6 defeat at Wigan Warriors in March was the moment he could no longer “ignore” his champions were on the slide.
The sides meet again at Headingley tonight with 2015 treble-winners Leeds now bottom of Super League, consigned to a relegation battle, and their old rivals challenging for the whole trio of trophies, instead.
There is a belief in the Rhinos camp, though, that they can end Wigan’s current eight-match unbeaten run given McDermott’s side have won three of their last four matches including last Friday’s impressive victory at then leaders Hull FC.
However, he knows how tough Shaun Wane’s team, who they beat in last year’s Grand Final, will be.
Asked if they owed Wigan one – they were also vanquished by them 40-8 at Magic Weekend –McDermott replied: “Yeah, along with a few other teams.
“Especially over there we were awful. They were great; they played with such tempo and pace around the ruck, we couldn’t handle it.
“It was probably that Wigan game where I thought it’s pointless being brave and pointless ignoring some of the issues we had.
“That was the first time I felt ‘how far off are we?’ It was the game where I felt there was something not right having spent so long thinking other issues affected us.”
For all Leeds are left facing the Qualifiers, McDermott knows they are capable of finishing their regular season on a high against Wigan and then at Hull KR next Thursday.
“We’ve got over Wigan in some big games and then they’ve smacked us and put us on our backside in others so it will be interesting,” he said. “We’re keen for this one. We’re ready for this one.
“Wigan are up near the top but it will be a good one for our boys and their confidence if we could do it.”
McDermott added Brett Ferres won’t play but was “very close” to selection after injury and captain Danny McGuire may return at Hull KR while long-term casualty Steve Ward trained with the team on Wednesday but could be another four weeks before he plays.