BEING DROPPED midway through the year turned Brad Singleton’s season around, the Leeds Rhinos front-rower says.
Singleton lost his place during Rhinos’ seven-game losing run in April and May, but returned to produce some strong performances as they clawed their way to Super League survival.
The 23-year-old suffered a leg injury in the 22-14 defeat at Huddersfield Giants four days ago, but is hoping to be available tonight when Rhinos close their season at home to promoted Leigh Centurions.
Singleton made his 100th appearance for Rhinos at Huddersfield and after playing in all but six of their 31 games this year, he is determined to end the campaign with a bang.
Reflecting on how the season has gone for him personally, he said: “It started pretty well.
“I was getting big minutes, I played in the World Club Challenge and I was starting, but then things didn’t go my way and I ended up out of favour.
“From that I didn’t really look back when I got put back in at the Magic Weekend.
“From then my performances grew and the confidence grew.
“We fixed things in defence and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Singleton admitted being dropped was a painful experience, but believes he has benefited in the long-run.
“At the time I wouldn’t have said so, but you learn from it, just like – hopefully – we will learn from this season,” Singleton said.
“Being left out makes you hungry and sparks you up the next time you’re out there.
“Your mentality changes, you don’t ever get complacent and it makes you tougher going forward.”
After looking set to finish bottom of the First Utility Super League table, Rhinos ended the weekly rounds with three successive wins and climbed to ninth.
Victories in their opening five games in the Qualifiers – coupled with wins for Leigh over Salford Red Devils, Hull Kingston Rovers and Huddersfield Giants – meant their Super League status for next year was assured with two games in hand.
“I think we brought more aggression to the league,” Singleton said of Rhinos’ change in fortune over the second half of the league campaign.
“We started to roll teams over in defence.
“Our defence got us the wins and from that our attack improved.”
Tonight’s game – which is for the new Bev Risman Trophy – has been brought forward 24 hours for coverage on Sky Sports.
That will make it tough for Rhinos who suffered a series of injuries at Huddersfield just four days ago.
“I think a few of the boys are hurting from the loss,” Singleton said.
He added: “Physically hurting and hurting just from the demand this season has had on us all.
“But we are feeling confident, it is good to finish on a home game and hopefully we can get a good performance and a win.”
Singleton played in Rhinos’ Challenge Cup and Grand Final-winning teams last year and admitted the traumas of 2016 have been “new to us all”.
Singleton said: “It is different, it is a different place it takes you to.
“The lows are the lowest we’ve been and to come out of that in some sort of way smiling, by securing our safety early and the performances we were able to pull out against the likes of Hull and Wigan, I think will give us a lot to build on for next year.
“I think we will all go into it flying.”
Most of Rhinos’ squad is contracted for 2017 and there is likely to be few, if any, additions to their elite 20-man group.
“I think we’re all here for next year, apart from Mitch Achurch,” Singleton said.
“I think he’s looking at American football, I think he will end up in America.
“But we are a tight group and I think sticking together, especially in these tough times, will benefit us.
“I hope people can see from the efforts in defence and in the end the efforts in attack, we are in good nick.”
Rhinos will finish top of the Qualifiers table if they win tonight.
That would give them something to build on over the next almost five months and Singleton said: “I think it [tonight’s match] is self-motivating.
“We know Leigh are going to be a tough outfit.
“They have got a Super League side, they have got a big, aggressive pack and backs that go well. It is on our home ground, there’ll be a big crowd and hopefully we can turn them over.
“We want to hopefully get the two points against Leigh, have a nice break and then look forward to 2017.
“It is not easy backing up from Sunday, but there’s going to be 17 players out there and 17 who are capable of doing a good job.”
Leeds Rhinos: from T Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Ward, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Keinhorst, Mullally, Handley, Golding, Lilley, Ferres, Hallas, Smith, Segeyaro.
Leigh Centurions: from Brown, Burns, Dawson, Dixon, Drinkwater, Hansen, Higham, Higson, Hock, Hopkins, McNally, Maitua, Moimoi, Ridyard, Smith, Tickle, Tonga, Worthington, Weston.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.