LEEDS RHINOS will look to defend the game’s best round one record when they visit Hull KR tomorrow.
And boss Brian McDermott reckons he hasn’t needed to plan any rousing motivational speeches ahead of his side’s First Utility Super League kick-off.
Rhinos have won their opening league fixture for the last 13 seasons – since a shock home loss to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in 2000.
And for the first time since 2011 Rhinos are beginning a campaign without silverware in their trophy cabinet.
McDermott insisted his entire squad are determined to put that right and said they are as motivated and hungry as he has ever seen them.
“I don’t have to say too much at this stage of the year,” McDermott stated. “We have got a few things going on at the moment. Last season, coming relatively close and yet not making a final, is something that’s not lost on us.
“We would like to get that right. Competition for places this year is well documented, with the addition of Tom Briscoe and Paul Aiton. That has had an effect on the make-up of the squad and what that’s going to look like and it is the start of the year as well, so there’s a few different factors why the players are pretty motivated at the moment.”
Rovers are expecting a full-house crowd and there is a belief in East Yorkshire tomorrow could be the start of a big season.
Craven Park – now known as KC Lightstream Stadium – is one of the most intimidating grounds for opposing teams to visit.
But McDermott said: “It is not the worst ground in the world. The weather has a bearing on how good it is to play there, but we’re not too concerned about that. I dare say it is going to be cold and wet and the changing rooms are not big enough, but we know that and we’ve been going there for a few years.
“That won’t change and we will just get on with it.”
New-look Rovers lost narrowly to Hull and Huddersfield Giants in pre-season and McDermott said: “I haven’t seen much of them. I know they have recruited well and made a couple of good signings. We are just assuming they are going to be stronger.
“At this time of the year most teams want to get their backyard right before they start flapping about what the opposition can bring.”
Rhinos’ full squad has been training together since the start of last month and McDermott declared himself happy with how pre-season has gone.
He said: “What you do in November and December doesn’t guarantee winning anything, but if you don’t do it properly the reality is you won’t win anything.
“However big the game gets, whatever new resources are available to us and what new techniques and different trends there are in the game, that will always remain true.
“We have been through it, ticked all the boxes and worked as hard as every other team has, but this is where the real business starts.”
Rhinos’ allocation of tickets for tomorrow’s game has completely sold out.
A Rovers spokesman said: “We are asking Rhinos fans without tickets not to travel over, because they will not get in to see the game.”
Leeds Rhinos from: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, R Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, S Ward, Delaney, Bailey, Clarkson, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Singleton.
Hull KR from: Burns, Carlile, Cockayne, Costigan, Eden, Green, C Hall, D Hodgson, J Hodgson, Horne, Keating, Langley, Larroyer, Poore, Salter, A Walker, J Walker, Welham, Weyman.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.