EIGHTEENTH MAN Mitch Achurch has pledged to put his Wembley disappointment to good use.
The Australian forward was Leeds Rhinos’ first reserve for last Saturday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup win over Castleford Tigers.
That meant he took a full part in training ahead of the game and warmed up on the pitch, but missed out on the match itself.
The final would have been the biggest game of the 26-year-old’s career, but he insists being involved will stand him in good stead for the future – and made him more determined not to miss out the next time Rhinos reach a crucial fixture.
“It was a little bit disappointing obviously, being that close to it,” Achurch said.
“I got the full experience. I did all the training sessions with the boys, I had to know the game plan in and out and I warmed up.
“It didn’t really hit me until the end of the game, when obviously we’d won and I wasn’t really part of the celebrations.
“It was tough, but it probably drives me a bit harder to be part of this team for hopefully the Grand Final.”
Achurch said experiencing what a final is all about will benefit him in the long term.
“It would have been the biggest game I’ve been a part of and I would have been really nervous,” he conceded. I suppose getting the opportunity to do the whole bit – the warm up and everything except the actual game – means the next time we do get to a big game I’ll know what to expect and how to prepare.
“In that regard I was kind of happy my first experience of a big game wasn’t with all the pressure on me, but at the same time once we had won that’s when I stood there and thought about what I was missing.
“I will look forward to the Grand Final, hopefully.”
Achurch said he is determined to play a part in Rhinos’ final few games of the year. The Cup holders face First Utility Super League leaders St Helens in their final home game of the regular campaign tomorrow night.
“Before the final he (coach Brian McDermott) said my form leading into it was good,” Achurch reported.
“I played against London and I think I played pretty well. I thought I might have deserved a spot, if it wasn’t for the experience some of the blokes who played on Saturday had over me.
“I think I did myself a bit of justice last week, hopefully I can play this week, push myself into a spot and make it impossible for him to leave me out of the team come the finals.”