LAST MAN standing Kallum Watkins will reach a personal milestone tonight in Leeds Rhinos’ final game of the season.
The England centre is poised to become the only ever-present in a campaign which has seen Rhinos ravaged by injuries.
Two more players - Keith Galloway and Rob Burrow - have been ruled out of the home showdown with Leigh Centurions following the loss at Huddersfield Giants four days ago.
Watkins said he is “pretty happy” to have avoided the injury curse, but insisted Leeds aren’t using their fitness woes as an excuse for a disappointing year.
“I’m very pleased to have played every game,” said the 25-year-old who was plagued by injuries earlier in his career.
“It is the first time I’ve done that.
“I’ve played every minute; I’ve not come off this year so that has been good.
“I have been fortunate, I have had a few knocks, but nothing to keep me out of games.
“Other players have been unlucky in terms of that.
“That’s part and parcel of the season and how the season has gone this year, but it has been the same for most teams.
“Throughout the competition it has been hard with a lot of injuries.
“How you deal with injuries is the main thing.
“These things happen in sport.”
Tonight’s game has been brought forward 24 hours at the request of Sky TV, giving Leeds just three days to prepare following the bruising 22-14 setback at Huddersfield.
“That was a pretty physical game,” Watkins admitted.
“It was quite hot out there, so players were getting pretty tired.
“We defended quite a bit, we coughed up too much ball and gave too many penalties away.
“That took a bit of energy out of us and left us with a bit too much to do in the end, but we showed a good attitude to try and get ourselves back into it.”
A win tonight would see Rhinos pip Leigh - who led the Kingstone Press Championship and have already been promoted to Super League - for top spot on the First Utility Qualifiers table.
That would salvage something from what has been Leeds’ poorest campaign for 20 years.
Watkins said: “This season hasn’t been the best, but coming to the back end of it there has been a huge improvement.
“It has been a learning curve for everyone involved. We have been on a good run of winning games; last week we didn’t get the result we wanted, but we’ve got to come up with a good performance [tonight] against a good team that have played well throughout the year.
“They are in good form, with plenty of confidence and they’ve got a lot of experience as well.
“They have shown how far they’ve come, they have been fantastic this year and fully deserve to be where they are going to be next season.”
Watkins said Rhinos are also determined to give their fans “something to smile about” going into the off-season.
Leeds have been the British game’s best-supported team this year and took more than 2,500 followers to Huddersfield last week.
“The fans have been fantastic,” Watkins said.
“That was a huge example of it on Sunday how they turned up and supported us.
“We need to come up with a good performance to win this game.
“It is going to be tough, but we’re looking forward to it.”