AUSTRALIAN FORWARD Adam Cuthbertson is “100 per cent” confident Leeds Rhinos can climb out of the hole they have tumbled into.
Rhinos are 10th in the 12-team First Utility Super League and have lost six of their eight games so far, including a 20-16 home defeat by last year’s wooden spoonists Wakefield Trinity Wildcats just four days ago.
Qualifying for the top-four – and a semi-final place – is already looking a tall order and Rhinos have a battle on their hands just to ensure they are in the Super-8s when the competition splits after 23 rounds.
But the Aussie, who was a nominee for last year’s Man of Steel award, which was eventually won by his team-mate Zak Hardaker, insisted: “I personally believe in, and I’ve always had faith in, the boys around me.”
Cuthbertson stressed: “It is still early. We have got a really great squad here.
“We have been finding it hard at the start of the year, but we need to get players back on the paddock and keep working hard in training, then we have to make sure we execute what we have been working on and talking about when we get out on the field on game day.”
This year’s form is in sharp contract to 2015, when Rhinos won seven of their opening eight games and were 10 points better off than they are now.
Cuthbertson predicted the defending champions are capable of getting back to that sort of form when they get their full squad available.
“I played with the boys all last year and I know what they are capable of,” he added. “It is just a matter of finding our groove.”
Rhinos suffered heavy defeats away to Widnes Vikings and Wigan Warriors, but have matched their opponents try-for-try in their other four losses. Goal kicks proved the difference in both Easter fixtures, as well as the setbacks at home to Warrington Wolves and in France against Catalans Dragons.
To Cuthbertson that suggests Rhinos are not far off, though he admitted it is little comfort as they lag behind the early pacesetters.
“It is definitely frustrating,” said the ex-Manly and Newcastle Knights prop. “We should be closing out games, but we are losing them in the dying minutes.
“We should be starting well, but we’re not starting great. It’s just certain areas that are big focus points going forward.
“It is something we can turn around, but we have got to do it sooner rather than later now. There’s no point talking about it any more, it has got to be done. We’ve got no choice, we have got to do it.”
After a tough start to the year in terms of fixtures, Rhinos are now in a run of games against teams around them on the table.
A win at the Jungle last week would have lifted them above Castleford Tigers into the top eight, but that chance was missed and Wakefield went above them on the table when they won at Headingley on Monday afternoon. Tonight’s visitors Hull KR are second from bottom and have won just once this season, though they are only a point behind Leeds after a draw with Castleford in round one.
They led 20-0 with a quarter of the game left against Hull on Good Friday, before collapsing to a 22-20 defeat and a makeshift side gave a good account of themselves in the 30-16 reverse at Wigan three days later.
They could have some key players, including ex-Leeds forwards Shaun Lunt and Chris Clarkson and inspirational stand-off Terry Campese, back for tonight’s game.
“They are in the same boat as us,” Cuthbertson observed.
“No game is going to be any easier.
“I don’t think we can worry about who we are playing going forward. We’ve just got to worry about ourselves and get ourselves right.
“We have just got to focus on us now and get our game sorted.
“We are looking week-to-week now and working on what we can do to better ourselves.”
Of the mood in Rhinos’ camp, Cuthbertson said: “Everyone would love to be at the top of the table every year, but you have to do it tough sometimes.
“We are doing it tough now, but I think if we can just dig in and get out of this we will be better for it.
“We have got a lot of young kids who are stepping in at the moment.
“I feel sorry for them in a sense, but they have come into first grade and they are getting some really important experience.
“They will look back on it and it will be good for them when they have a bit of success.
“The effort isn’t lacking, definitely not. You can never look at a Leeds Rhinos team and criticise them for effort, but it is a matter of executing what we practice.”
Leeds Rhinos: from Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Handley, Sutcliffe, McGuire, Galloway, Falloon, Cuthbertson, Keinhorst, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan, Burrow, Mullally, Achurch, Garbutt, Walters, Delaney.
Hull KR: from Allgood, Blair, Campese, Clarkson, Cockayne, Dixon, Green, Greenwood, Horne, Lawler, Lunt, Marsh, Moran, Mulhern, Sio, Thornley, Tilse, Wardill, Walker.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).