ROOKIE FULL-BACK Liam Sutcliffe is aiming to kick on when Leeds Rhinos visit Hull KR tonight.
Sutcliffe is expected to be at full-back for the sixth successive game and continue as the side’s main goal kicker.
Zak Hardaker’s loan move to Penrith Panthers has given Sutcliffe an opportunity to establish himself at full-back after beginning the year as Rhinos’ first-choice stand-off and he feels he is coming to grips with the new position.
“I am really enjoying it,” said the 21-year-old.
“I think the more I train and play there I feel like I am getting more confident in the role.
“If that’s what I’ll be playing for the rest of the year I’ll be really excited about it. I am feeling more comfortable from when I first started and it’s helping training week-in and week-out there.”
Of kicking duties, Sutcliffe added: “The Hull game wasn’t my best with the boot, but I am getting into a specific routine now. I am practicing a lot more in training now than I have done the last couple of years. I feel like I am really getting used to the role and the pressures of kicking.”
Rhinos are hunting a fifth win in six matches and Sutcliffe said the mood in the camp has been transformed over the past two months.
“It is a lot happier place to be now,” he said. “I remember coming in on a Monday at the start of the year and you’d dread doing the reviews, because it was a dark place.
“Now we can come in on a Monday knowing we’ve put a good performance in, especially the last few weeks. It has come from how we’ve been training, we’ve been building for the last couple of months and it’s good to see it is finally paying off on the pitch.”
Rhinos’ resurgence has come too late to snatch a place in the First Utility Super-8s, but they are building a head of steam going into the Qualifiers.
Rhinos’ Super League status will be on the line over the next two months and Sutcliffe warned: “It is going to be a tough competition. We aren’t building for a steady stroll in the eights, we still want to work hard and get ready for a massive middle-eights tournament.
“The Championship teams are going to be fighting for a Super League place and we want to get back up there as well so I reckon the intensity and physicality is going to be the same as a Super League game.”
Tonight’s hosts, Hull KR, are 10th in the table, one place above Leeds on points difference. Sides finishing ninth and 10th will play four home games and three away in the Qualifiers, with the situation being reversed for the 11th and 12-placed sides, and gives what could have been a meaningless regular season finalé an added edge.
“It is going to be another tough game, which it always is at Hull KR,” Sutcliffe predicted.
“It is pretty hostile with their fans and the the pitch being close to the stands. We have trained hard this week and we’re ready for another massive game.
“We want to get another win this week and put in another good performance. We want four home games in the middle-eights, so it’s vital we get the win.”
Rovers won 30-10 when the teams met at Headingley Carnegie in July and Sutcliffe recalled: “That wasn’t the best performance from us, so hopefully we can keep building on what we’ve done for the last few weeks and we will go there with confidence.”