THE joke was on next season’s recruit Anthony Mullally when he signed a three-year deal with Leeds Rhinos.
The 23-year-old prop-forward will join Rhinos from Huddersfield Giants at the end of the season.
He lives in Headingley, close to Rhinos’ stadium and revealed he used to joke about joining the six-time Grand Final winners, but did not believe the dream move would ever come true.
“When a team like Leeds came in for me, I never expected it,” said the Irish international, who is originally from Widnes.
“I used to joke about it, saying I’d love to sign for Leeds, but I didn’t think it would happen.”
With veteran front-rowers Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai both in their final season at Leeds, Mullally knows there is an opportunity there for him.
“I think that’s one of the reasons they brought me in,” he said.
“They are probably looking at bringing in another front-rower as well, but they’re are big boots to fill.
“I am a young prop, not an experienced player and I am not the answer to Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai. I am going to play as well as I can and do everything I can in pre-season and the friendly games to get that shirt.”
Mullally made his debut for Widnes in 2009 and had a spell at Brisbane Broncos before returning to the club following their promotion to Super League.
“I played in their under-20s competition,” he recalled of his time in Australia.
“It was a great experience, on and off the field.
“The players there were as big as Super League players.
“Super League is a step up in terms of quality, but not in physicality.”
Mullally joined Huddersfield in 2013 and played for Ireland in that year’s World Cup, then had a spell on loan at Bradford Bulls last year.
He confirmed he was offered a new deal by Huddersfield.
“I just wanted to wait until (after the anti-tampering deadline on May 1), like every player does,” he said.
“I wanted to see what options were available. I was happy at Huddersfield.
“But when Leeds came knocking, I jumped at it.
“It is good to get my future sorted and now I can just focus on finishing the season with Huddersfield.
“I want to get as many games as I can for Huddersfield and finish strongly, so I can repay them for the last few years.”
Rhinos regard Mullally as a player for the future.
He has been used in short bursts by Giants, but is hoping to get more game time when he links up with Leeds next year.
“I want to give them go-forward,” he said.
“I like to find my front, get good play-the-balls and make good metres.
“Brian (McDermott, Rhinos’ coach) is talking about adding other things to my game, but that’s my main goal.”
Mullally has recent experience of what to expect when he runs out at Headingley as a Leeds Rhinos player for the first time.
He was a member of the Giants side beaten there nine days ago in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” he said.
“There wasn’t as many fans there last week as when we went there in the league at the start of the season.
“It was jam-packed and you couldn’t hear yourself speak, it was so loud.”