World Challenge rewards best club, not best team '“ McDermott

IT WILL probably never happen but Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott admits he hopes one day to see the World Club Challenge take place in the immediate aftermath of Grand Final glory.

Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott.

His side feature in a record seventh World Club Challenge when the 2015 Super League champions take on North Queensland Cowboys, their NRL counterparts, at Headingley this Sunday.

The event is designed to decipher who is the best club side on earth but, of course, it takes place almost four months after their respective title deciders last October.

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Leeds have seen Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai retire since then while captain Kevin Sinfield moved on to Yorkshire Carnegie and a raft of other players from that Old Trafford night are now injured.

The Cowboys, unusually, have been able to retain the very same 17 that defeated Brisbane Broncos for the NRL crown in Sydney but that is certainly a departure from the norm.

McDermott, who led Leeds to victory over Manly in 2012 but lost the following year against Melbourne Storm, admitted: “I would like to see this competition played at the end of the season.

“Maybe 1o days or two weeks later it would be pretty much the same team that won the Grand Final and with the same coach as well, as quite often that changes, too.

“(The current format) is a true reflection of the club but not necessarily the team that won the Grand Final having it at this time of year. We’ll have that many changes now due to injuries and retirements.

“It’s a positive for our club and for our juniors as they get a chance.

“But I understand logistically it would be tough to move it to the end of the year, with international matches and when the NRL season finishes compared to us.

“This is probably an easier version for everybody as it’s more straight-forward, but that would be my preference.”

It is an enticing prospect and one which would surely be a truer depiction of the best club side in the world for that year.

Yet, as McDermott admits, with the NRL finishing a week before Super League and, ordinarily, a Four Nations or World Cup then looming, it is almost impossible to bring to life.

So, we are left with the current situation which, in fairness, should still deliver a fascinating contest.

Leeds – aiming for a record fourth success in the competition – may be under-strength but they have experience of this concept and home advantage.

By comparison, it is all new to the Cowboys who won the Premiership for the first time last season, have travelled 20,000 miles, have yet to start their own league campaign but do have a fully-fit squad and the considerable presence of Johnathan Thurston, the world’s greatest player.

“I think there’ll be nerves on both sides,” said McDermott.

“I don’t care how many of these games you’ve played in, or finals, you’ve still got to get up on the day.

“I think again the preparation – I often say this before finals – it’s the preparation where you get the advantage.

“As soon as the whistle blows you’ve got to come up with the goods and our prep’ is crazy as we have to play two Super League rounds.

“I know North Queensland played last week in Australia but I don’t think they have a raft of preparation under their belt either. The prep’s been different so I just think it’s about nailing game-day.”

Meanwhile, McDermott hopes Leeds’ Aussie-born Adam Cuthbertson might be in line for an England call-up after a conversation with new national coach Wayne Bennett.

McDermott said: “It’s an interesting one. He’s certainly a different type and it’ll be interesting to watch him in an England shirt.”