THE CLOCK is ticking, but forward Carl Ablett reckons Leeds Rhinos will be ready to hit the ground running in 12 days’ time.
The Challenge Cup holders begin their First Utility Super League campaign at Hull KR on Sunday, February 8. And Ablett predicted they are in for a tough few days after the 34-14 win over Bradford Bulls in their only full-scale warm-up match.
“At the minute I think we’ve got the gist of how we want to play and you saw signs of it out there (on Sunday), but we’ll need a few more games before you really see what we’ve been working on,” Ablett said.
“It is hard to put that into games, but the thing is this season you probably don’t get a couple of games to dip your toe and work your way into the season.
“It is going to be pretty intense over the next couple of weeks. We’ll watch a bit of video and try and fix things up and hopefully we’ll be ready come two weeks’ time.”
With the competition set to split into Grand Final and relegation play-offs after 23 rounds, Ablett said teams wanting to challenge for the title will need to be on their game from round one.
“There’s no easing in this year,” he said. “We have been pretty full-on all through pre-season and we’re aiming to be good from round one.
“On Sunday we were a bit rusty, but we’ve got another game, against Doncaster, this weekend if anybody needs
a bit of game time to get their timing back.
“Then we’ll have a full-on week preparing for Hull KR and we’ll be straight into it. It’s important we get a good start.”
Ablett reckons Rhinos are better prepared as a unit than in some pre-seasons.
“It has been a long one, longer than a few of us have been used to,” he said. “We’ve had most of our players in.
“We’ve only had three players missing because of England and that has been good.
“We’ve been able to work on a few things and we’ve bought into the philosophy of how we’re going to play.
“We’ve tried to strip it back and work on a few areas. When you come up short like we did last year in Super League you need to review yourself, personally and as a team.
“We’ve done a lot of reflection and spent a lot of time working on our skills and our philosophy and how we want to attack the season.
“We were a bit rusty on Sunday, but we’ve got a couple of weeks to prepare for the first game and hopefully we’ll be better for that.”
Rhinos have focused on keeping the ball alive in their pre-season matches, but Ablett admitted: “Probably a bit too much at times.
“With the skilful players we’ve got we do like to promote the ball and play that passing game, but it’s about striking a balance.
“Some of the passes we are getting away are good to watch, but it’s probably a bit too many at times.
“There’s stuff for us to work on, but I’m sure come two weeks’ time we’ll be striking the right balance.”