HERE WE are, in a situation we wanted to avoid.
At the start of the season if someone had said we’d be going into the middle-eights after the 23 Super League rounds, I don’t think anybody would have believed it.
But it is what it is, we have finished in the bottom-four and we have to deal with that. It’s a long way from where we were this time last year, but the challenge is just as big.
There’s been reasons for what has happened this year. I have said all along the loss of our training ground and injuries to so many key players have been big factors.
We are back at Kirkstall now and most of the squad are fit and results have improved. That is no coincidence. It has come a bit late for us, but the situation is a lot better now than a couple of months ago.
I am writing this before the game at Hull KR, but whatever the result there we have shown in the last few weeks some good signs of what we are capable of.
We are confident we can do well in the Qualifiers, but there’s no complacency. Because Leeds are a big club some people will be saying we can breeze through it.
After what has happened this year nobody in our group is thinking that. If you look at the other teams, Salford would be sixth if they hadn’t had points deducted, Huddersfield were fourth last year and Hull KR are a good side as well.
Leigh have only lost once in the Championship this year and have signed a load of Super League players and all the other teams from the Championship look strong.
I don’t think we can look at any of those and think it’s going to be an easy game. We need to get the right mindset that it is going to be a battle.
We have to keep to our standards and even raise our game because it is going to be very competitive.
The teams coming up will be looking for a few scalps and I am sure they’ll be looking forward to welcoming the Super League teams to their ground and making it uncomfortable for them.
We are going to be a target but we’ve got to continue to focus on our performance and getting better each week, which has served us well for the last few weeks. We haven’t had much to play for, but we have focused on performance and on each player being a bit better.
Getting players back has made us look a bit more fluid and cohesive. You can train better when you’ve got more fit bodies and competition for places spurs everybody on.
We get a break next weekend before we’re into the middle-eights, but when that comes around we will prepare just like we do for Super League games.
We will review and preview, train as much as we do every other week and treat the teams we are playing like Super League sides.
We have to be mentally and physically ready and in a way we’ll have to prepare even harder because we are coming up against players and teams we aren’t used to facing, at grounds we’ve maybe never played at.
The Aussie boys definitely won’t have experienced going to places like Fev and Batley and I think they’ll be in for a bit of a shock, but we have to control what we can control.
If you look at our squad and the quality we have in there, realistically if we are playing at our potential we should be too good, but you can’t take that for granted.
We have to keep training hard and treating each week with the respect the opposition deserves.
It will be an exciting weekend in the Championship and I’ll be keeping a close eye on what’s going on.
It would be fantastic for Batley if they could finish in the top-four and there should be a cracking atmosphere at Featherstone.
With them and Bradford both knowing a win will get them into the Qualifiers that is probably a half-a-million pound game.
In Super League there’s still three teams who can finish top at the end of the weekly rounds and that’s great for the competition.
You want competition at the top and the bottom and that’s what we’ve got.
As an end to the first part of the season it could not have been much better.