TONIGHT’S HUGE challenge at Warrington Wolves is another opportunity for Brad Singleton to prove he can be part of Leeds Rhinos’ long-term future.
Singleton has come off the substitutes’ bench in all four of Rhinos’ First Utility Super League fixtures this year, scoring two tries and being named man of the match in last week’s comeback win at Hull.
The Cumbrian prop is now in his fifth season as a member of Rhinos’ senior squad and has 46 first-team appearances under his belt.
With veteran front-rowers Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai both expected to retire at the end of the year, Leeds are on the hunt for replacements – and Singleton admits he is determined to be one of them.
Now 22, Singleton made just one substitute appearance in 2011 and 2012, before getting his first start the following year. He took another step towards becoming a regular in the side during 2014 and was promoted into the 20-man elite squad this year, but conceded it has been a long process.
“I think everyone has to play the patience game, especially as it’s such a successful club like Leeds and how much it’s won over last few years,” he said.
“It is hard to break into a side like that, but it’s coming to a time now when players are moving on so I have seen it as an opportunity.
“With front-rowers retiring I am going to get enough game time to put myself into the frame to take over. The plan is always there, but all I need to is just perform on the pitch.”
So far Singleton reckons things are going according to plan.
He said “It is what I was working for in pre-season. I’ve played in four out of four games now so I am getting some decent game time and I feel like I’m going all right.
“Of course it helps to be playing regularly. Every player wants that, it’s what we all train for and it’s good when that happens.”
Boss Brian McDermott compared Singleton to Peacock after the youngster’s Rhinos debut in 2011 and that is something he has had to live with throughout the early stages of his career.
Singleton said: “I can’t do much about it. I’ve got the big, tall, lanky, slim build so I can see the comparison. I’ve said it before, if anyone achieves a 10th of what he has it’s going to be a successful career, but it’s up to me what I do with my career.”
Having two of the best to learn from has been a big advantage, according to Singleton.
He said: “The main thing is everyone has got different bits to their game, but what everyone has in common, especially those two, is just that determination to win.
“The will to train, the determination, work ethic, the 100 per cent no matter what. You can’t slack ever. That’s what I’ve learned from JP and Kylie.”
At 6ft 2ins and 16st 4lbs, Singleton reckons he has reached his ideal size, allowing him to combine power with pace – as he illustrated when he made a break leading to Leeds’ first try last week.
He said: “I won’t be looking to put on too much weight now, maybe just a couple of kilos.
“Every forward gives themselves a base weight at the start of the year they want to hit. Last year I don’t think I was fit enough personally, but this year we’ve had a good pre-season and got fitter. I feel I’m benefitting from that.”
Of his assist for Danny McGuire’s opener at KC Stadium, he insisted: “I think it was a bit fortunate.
“There was no A defender and I was against two forwards who didn’t give much chase, so maybe I looked quicker than I am!”
Singleton isn’t expecting Warrington to give him as much room tonight.
“It’s a massive game,” he said. “They always play well, they are a very tough side and we need to on our best form to beat them.
“It is definitely our biggest test yet. I think we have lost every time I’ve gone there, so it’d be nice to go over and get a win.”
Warrington boast a powerful front-row, including England man Chris Hill and star signing Ashton Sims.
“They’re quite big names for forwards,” Singleton said. “But we want to compete against the best.”
Rhinos are top scorers in Super League so far, with 149 points at an average of more than 37 per match and only second-placed St Helens have a better defence.
But Rhinos have trailed in three of their four games and Singleton said despite their positive results, they are still nowhere near their best.
“There’s improvement in us,” he stressed. “Take last week. That first half wasn’t acceptable for us. You can’t be 12-0 down like that.
“We came back in the second, but we’re not at full strength yet. There’s improvements to come and hopefully we’ll be there by about Round 10.”
Warrington Wolves from: Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Clark, Currie, Evans, Harrison, Higham, Hill, King, Laithwaite, O’Brien, Penny, Philbin, Ratchford, Russell, Sims, Westwood, Wheeler.
Leeds Rhinos from: Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Cuthbertson, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, S Ward, Jones-Buchanan, Singleton, Burrow, Leuluai, Delaney, Walters, Golding.
Referee: Phil Bentham.
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.