AUSTRALIAN PROP Mitch Garbutt could get his hands on a fourth trophy this weekend, in only his 17th competitive game for Leeds Rhinos.
Garbutt joined Rhinos from Brisbane Broncos last June and played in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final win over Hull KR, the game at Huddersfield Giants which clinched the league leaders’ shield and the First Utility Super League Grand Final success against Wigan Warriors.
Victory against Australian champions North Queensland Cowboys in Sunday’s Dacia World Club Challenge would be icing on the cake and Garbutt vowed he and his team-mates will be “ripping in” despite their disappointing start to the year.
Leeds will go into the showpiece bottom of Super League and on the back of a 56-12 drubbing at Widnes Vikings a week earlier, but Garbutt stressed: “I wouldn’t say we are demoralised by what happened last week. It was disappointing, we didn’t play well, but it is early days.
“It’s not panic stations yet. I think both sides will be really excited about Sunday. I know we are very excited about it and really looking forward to playing against the Cowboys. They have got some great players, some world-class players, so any time you get to play against people like that it is going to be a good game.”
The prospect of a fourth world club title is a huge incentive for Rhinos, who won the competition in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
“It is good to win any game, but to be able to take away the title of best team in the world is something we will be gunning for,” Garbutt said.
“We will be trying to put our best foot forward. We know we are coming up against a very talented North Queensland side who are coached very well, so we will be giving it our all and we will see what happens. I don’t think it will be a high scoring game, I think it will be one of those games where there’s a few points separating the teams, but we will be ripping in, that’s for sure.”
Rhinos’ task has been made harder by an early-season injury crisis. Already missing departed trio Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai from last year’s title-winning side, Danny McGuire suffered a long-term knee injury in the Super League round one defeat against Warrington Wolves and Tom Briscoe, Carl Ablett and Ashton Golding sustained ankle damage at Widnes. Beau Falloon has yet to play a competitive game because of a broken toe and Stevie Ward and Jamie Jones-Buchanan are on the long-term casualty list.
Liam Sutcliffe, aged 21, and 19-year-old Jordan Lilley were the starting half-backs at Widnes, but Garbutt insisted: “Whoever plays will be very excited and I am sure they will put their best foot forward. We have got a lot of confidence in ourselves and our own ability. We do have some young players playing at the moment, but I think given time they will be great players.
“I don’t think anyone in the team doubts the young players at all. We have massive confidence in what they can do. We get to see them every day and I know Mac (coach Brian McDermott) has massive confidence in them both, too. We have got no problem with having them and I think and they will be better for every game they play.”