RECORD-BREAKING FORWARD Adam Cuthbertson says both teams will be desperate for a win when Leeds Rhinos face Salford Red Devils at Headingley Carnegie tonight.
Rhinos began First Utility Super League round 22 on top of the table, with Salford sitting second from bottom, but it is the visitors who are the form team, travelling to Leeds on the back of successive wins.
Defeat would end Salford’s faint hopes of finishing in the top-eight, but last week’s loss at Wigan means Rhinos have no margin for error in their quest to end the regular season as league leaders.
“It is a big game,” Cuthbertson said of tonight’s penultimate match in the weekly rounds.
“But it has been that way for a few weeks now. It is a big game for us because we want to keep our form up leading into the Super-8s and we have got a Challenge Cup semi-final coming up and we want to be playing well going into that.
“It is a big game for them because they are fighting to get into the top-eight.
“I think the next few weeks, going into the 8s, will be like semi-final footy every week.
“That is what the new competition has created and it is great.”
Cuthbertson insisted tough games are what Rhinos need and want as they approach the business end of the campaign.
“You don’t want to be going out there thinking it is going to be easy,” he stressed.
“That’s no good for the fans or players.
“You want to be in a competitive game every single week and that’s what we’ve got.”
Cuthbertson signed for Rhinos from Newcastle Knights and reckons one of his former teammates there, half-back Michael Dobson, will be a big threat tonight.
“There’s a few of the Salford boys I’ve played with,” he said.
“I had a stint with Lama Tasi at Manly and I played with Junior Sa’u at Newcastle.
“Michael Dobson was at Newcastle last year and he’s a good player. He didn’t play against us when we played them at Salford, but he is definitely a leader of that team.
“He gets them around the park, he directs them and he has got a great kicking game.
“He is good for them and he’s definitely one we’ve got to keep our eye on and put plenty of pressure on.”
Rhinos need to focus on themselves first following the 26-24 defeat at DW Stadium eight days ago.
“I think the first half performance just shows how easily you can let a game slip away if you don’t turn up in the first 20-odd minutes,” Cuthbertson said.
“In saying that, there was a lot of character shown in the second half, to fight back.
“Hopefully we can come up with a lot more of the performance we put in during that second half over the next few weeks.
“You are always looking to improve, week after week.”
Cuthbertson set a record in last week’s game when his 10 offloads took him to 97 for the Super League season.
The previous best was 90 by Andy Lynch, of Castleford Tigers, 12 years ago.
“I didn’t know there was a stat for that,” Cuthbertson admitted.
“I don’t think about it, it is not really something I have tried to do a lot of.
“I am not chasing records, I am just playing footy and playing what I see.”
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington this week described Cuthbertson as one of the best players in the world and said switching to Super League has allowed him to reach his potential.
The player himself credits his success this year to the approach of Rhinos’ coaching staff and support from his teammates.
“Super League and the NRL are different styles of play,” Cuthbertson said.
“But it is more down to people backing me a bit more, Brian (McDermott), the coaching staff and the senior players like JP (Jamie Peacock), Danny (McGuire) and Kev (Sinfield).
“They back me and it makes my life a lot easier, it takes the pressure off me.
“I can go out and play what I see and I know they have got my back and they know I’ve got theirs.”
Australia’s top competition is renown for its focus on defence, but Cuthbertson feels his off-the-cuff style is encouraged more in Super League.
“The boys here are really getting behind me and they are looking for it [an offload], they are almost telling me they are coming and that is good for my game,” he said.
“In the NRL by now I would probably have been told to tuck it under my wing.
“When I was in the NRL I did the job I had to do and now I have come over here, I am doing the job I have to do. It is just different styles.”
Leeds Rhinos from: Hardaker, Handley, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Leuluai, Aiton, Singleton, Delaney, Ablett, Cuthbertson, Keinhorst, Burrow, Garbutt, Yates, Walters, R Ward.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds, Jones-Bishop, Sa’u, J Griffin, Caton-Brown, Fages, Dobson, Taylor, Tomkins, Morley, J Walne, Hauraki, G Griffin, D Griffin, Hood, Paterson, Krasniqi, Chase, Hanson.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.