Housemates Brad Singleton and Mitch Achurch may be Leeds Rhinos’ “Odd Couple”, but head coach Brian McDermott has high hopes for the duo next season.
Australian Achurch – who joined the Rhinos last season from NRL outfit Penrith Panthers – and rookie prop Singleton have been likened by McDermott to comedy pair Felix and Oscar in the movie The Odd Couple.
In the 1968 film, the two differing characters – played by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau – share an apartment.
Fast forward to today and housemates Achurch and Singleton may come from different backgrounds, but the duo are spurring each other on as they challenge for a first-team spot at Headingley when the new season kicks off on February 16 with a trip to Hull KR.
“I call them Oscar and Felix because they remind me of the Odd Couple,” said McDermott.
“Although Mitch has played in the NRL, strangely they have both played 39 senior games in their career so they are well matched in terms of where they are at in their development.
“So much about professional sport is about confidence and self belief and having someone to talk to who is going through the same challenges can only help them both.”
McDermott has been impressed with the pair during pre-season training, they face Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the Boxing Day friendly, after spending time on loan at Hunslet Hawks last season.
“It would be easy to expect too much too soon from Mitch when he came over from Australia, however we have to remind ourselves how inexperienced he was at first team level,” said McDermott.
“Our relationship with Mitch was always seen as a long term one and he had only played 11 first grade games when he signed for us.
“After some early frustrations and, following an improvement in his form helped by his spell at Hunslet, we began to see some performances that reminded us why we had recruited him in the first place.
“The history of Super League and the Rhinos shows that invariably overseas players perform better from their second season because of the huge changes involved in moving to the other side of the world and I am sure that will be true for Mitch.
“His professionalism and determination to succeed have never been in doubt and he is looking a more settled player in pre-season and I am confident we will see more from him this season.”
Forward Achurch, 25, made 24 appearances in his debut year for the Rhinos, while 21-year-old Cumbrian Singleton earned a call-up to the England Knights side earlier this year after impressing in the Headingley first-team.
McDermott added: “You forget how young Brad still is because he has been around the first team for so long. He only turned 21 at the end of last season but he showed real maturity in his performances that demonstrated to the fans and his team-mates what he is capable of but, perhaps most importantly, to himself also.
“He is playing in probably the toughest position in our team to get a starting spot.
“But that appears to only be spurring him on to improve during pre-season, which as a coach, is great to see.
“He has an uncompromising style of play that every team needs in their big players but I still regard him as being at the apprenticeship stage of his career.
“I am confident he will play a good number of games next season and continue his development to go on and realise his full potential.”
Singleton misses the Boxing Day match through suspension, but Achurch should feature in the 11.30am kick-off.