BOSS BRIAN McDermott felt there were positive signs for the future after Leeds Rhinos’ eight game winning run came to an end.
Yesterday’s 22-14 defeat at Huddersfield Giants was Leeds’ first since July 3.
Rhinos lost four key players during the match due to injury, but came close to snatching a point late on after trailing 20-0 at the end of the third quarter.
Leeds’ Super League status for next year was already secure and McDermott said he was “proud” of the way his team battled in the face of adversity.
“While we didn’t win today and it’s tough, I know my team has got integrity and they’ve got honesty and I know they can ride some tough moments,” McDermott said.
“That really encourages me for next year. I can’t wait for next year to start and the players can’t.
“We need to put some bodies back together and get some blokes back fit again, but there’s some really encouraging signs for the challenges that are going to happen next year.”
Leeds are back in action at home to Leigh Centurions in three days’ time and McDermott admitted they will be “up against it” as they try to put 17 fit players on the field for their final game of the year.
“I have got to say I couldn’t be any prouder at the moment,” he said after yesterday’s defeat.
“We had some adversity before the game. Ryan Hall pulled out of the game with an ankle injury and Keith Galloway was playing on fumes.
“His wife had a baby two or three days ago and he hasn’t slept.
“He nearly pulled out, but he put his hand up because we had no more bodies.
“Anthony Mullally is concussed, Mitch Achurch is unavailable with his knee, Mitch Garbutt’s unavailable with his calf, Danny McGuire’s unavailable....
“So we had some adversity we had to overcome even before the game, but we played a very committed and very strong Huddersfield team that had a lot to play for.”
McDermott said there were more “busted bodies” after the game.
He added: “Rob [Burrow] has come off with a knee, it looks like Keith Galloway has snapped his Achilles.
“We will have to check that out. Jordan Lilley was busted, he has got some knee issues and some head issues.
“I am not sure what team we will field next week when we play a very good Leigh team. We are up against it.”
Rhinos had little to play for against a Huddersfield side fighting for their Super League lives, but McDermott insisted: “I don’t think at any stage our fellas said it doesn’t really matter, we are in Super League next year.
“More that that, I think you could be proud and say they kept going at this. We want to finish as strong as we can.”
The positive news was Stevie Ward’s first start since suffering a serious knee injury in the win at Huddersfield a year ago.
“It is great he is getting a few games in before the season finishes,” McDermott said.