'Start of something big': Leeds Rhinos prop Mikolaj Oledzki excited ahead of Super League play-offs

As Leeds Rhinos celebrated their most recent Grand Final success in 2017, a fresh-faced Mikolaj Oledzki could be spotted in the background toasting the club's eighth Super League title.

Only 19 at the time, Oledzki had just three first-team appearances to his name and was surrounded by club legends.

Fast forward five years and the Poland-born prop is the cornerstone of the Leeds pack, the player that sets the standard in the middle.

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Although he was very much on the fringes of the first team in 2017, Oledzki knows what a successful side looks like.

Mikolaj Oledzki was rewarded for an outstanding season with a Dream Team spot. (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Mikolaj Oledzki was rewarded for an outstanding season with a Dream Team spot. (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Mikolaj Oledzki was rewarded for an outstanding season with a Dream Team spot. (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

He is convinced the glory days are on their way back as Leeds prepare to launch their 2022 play-off campaign against Catalans Dragons on Friday night.

"I felt sore after the Castleford game but I woke up the next morning feeling like the season was about to start all over again," Oledzki told The Yorkshire Post.

"To come from where we were fighting with Toulouse to stay off the bottom to get into the play-offs in fifth place, it's a great achievement. It shows a lot of resilience and character.

"It does feel like the start of something big."

Mikolaj Oledzki, top left, during Leeds Rhinos' title celebrations in 2017. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)Mikolaj Oledzki, top left, during Leeds Rhinos' title celebrations in 2017. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
Mikolaj Oledzki, top left, during Leeds Rhinos' title celebrations in 2017. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
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It is no exaggeration to say the Rhinos would not be where they are without Oledzki's efforts.

The England forward played all 27 games during the regular season and was the leader for tackles and metres among front-rowers in the competition.

Oledzki was suitably rewarded with a place in the Super League Dream Team as Leeds' sole representative.

"It came as a surprise to me," he said. "I didn't expect it at all.

Mikolaj Oledzki enjoys the recent win over Huddersfield Giants. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)Mikolaj Oledzki enjoys the recent win over Huddersfield Giants. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
Mikolaj Oledzki enjoys the recent win over Huddersfield Giants. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
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"To finish the year in the Dream Team is a massive honour. After making the play-offs, this tops it off.

"I've got awesome team-mates at Leeds. It's easy to put your hand up when you're playing with your best mates, even if I'm a bit sore sometimes. Without them, I wouldn't be here."

A play-off eliminator in Perpignan was a mere pipedream when Rohan Smith inherited a side that had won only one of their opening nine Super League fixtures.

The Australian has reminded the players why they took up the sport in the first place.

Mikolaj Oledzki celebrates victory over Hull FC. (Picture: Will Palmer/SWpix.com)Mikolaj Oledzki celebrates victory over Hull FC. (Picture: Will Palmer/SWpix.com)
Mikolaj Oledzki celebrates victory over Hull FC. (Picture: Will Palmer/SWpix.com)

"He tried to put smiles on everyone's faces," said Oledzki.

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"There was a lot of pressure on us because we had pretty big goals. We've got a pretty young team so when we didn't start that well, that's when a bit of anxiety and doubt kicked in.

"Rohan saw that cloud above us when he came in. When you have a young team that want to enjoy their rugby and play with a smile on their face, it's hard to get everyone playing well when there's a big grey cloud of pressure.

"He's been great at taking that cloud and the pressure away. He brought everyone together really well and the rest is history."

The Rhinos are being viewed as the outsiders to lift the Super League trophy at Old Trafford on September 24.

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Oledzki is hoping Smith's men can channel the spirit of 2011 and 2012 when the club won the title from fifth.

"The big dream is still alive and that's exciting," he said.

"By finishing fifth, you go under the radar a little bit and become the underdogs. The pressure goes out of the window a little bit and you go into these games just wanting to enjoy the occasion of play-off rugby.

"Fifth is a special number when you look at previous seasons but we'll take it week by week."

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