Leeds Rhinos appeared to be in crisis when they slumped to a 66-10 defeat at Castleford Tigers a month ago yesterday. That humiliation, the club’s heaviest Super League defeat, prompted chief executive Gary Hetherington to write to fans suggesting he would make a judgement on the future of Leeds’ players and coaching staff at the end of March.
At the time he could not have imagined he would be making that judgement with Leeds sitting second in Super League and on a run of four successive wins, including last Friday’s 26-18 victory over champions Wigan Warriors.
It took Rhinos until July 8, when they won at Hull, to reach 12 points last season and they went into April, 2016, with only two wins under their belt.
Rhinos are now playing their best rugby since their treble-winning campaign two years ago, but as far as front-row forward Mitch Garbutt is concerned, it is still too early to tell if they are genuine contenders for honours.
“We aren’t getting ahead of ourselves,” insisted the former Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos man, who famously completed a clean-sweep of British silverware in his first 14 games for Leeds.
“We have worked really hard over the last few weeks and we’ve still got a few injuries and a few people to come back yet.
“I think a month down the line we will be a bit closer to where we want to be.
“We’ve performed well, but we haven’t set the world alight.
“We don’t think we’re world-beaters, but we are playing okay at the moment.”
Garbutt believes the drubbing at Wheldon Road could prove to have been a blessing in disguise.
He described it as a “reality check” and admitted: “We had a tough night there and I think it has really helped us over the past few weeks.
“We honestly aren’t doing much different. I said this all last year when I was being asked what was going on, rugby league’s a funny game – you can do the same amount of work and you can do all the same things and you get different results every week.
“At the moment we’ve been lucky and we’ve got some results going our way, but it’s not through doing anything easy – we’ve worked hard for everything we’ve got this year.”
More challenges lie ahead for Leeds. They visit Warrington Wolves on Friday and then face a busy Easter which sees them travel to Hull on Good Friday, play host to Widnes Vikings three days later and then take on Doncaster in the Challenge Cup four days after that.
“Hopefully, we get some fresh bodies back for that,” Garbutt said of the impending fixture pile-up. “Brad Singleton will be ready to go after Easter, Keith Galloway will add a lot of experience and size when he returns from injury and whenever Stevie Ward is in our side we are a better football team.
“We’re only going to be better when those people come back and we’ll have a lot of competition. We can definitely improve, but we have had a good month.”