DREAM TEAM forward Elliott Whitehead believes Catalan Dragons will need to produce their best performance of the season to win this afternoon’s elimination play-off at Leeds Rhinos.
Catalan have never won at Headingley Carnegie, though they were in front after the hooter had sounded in June’s Super League clash, only for Liam Sutcliffe’s penalty goal – with the final kick of the game – to snatch victory for Leeds.
“That’s the closest we’ve come,” Whitehead said. “We had it, but we gave the game away. Hopefully we can repeat that performance and learn from our mistakes in that game and hopefully get through to the next round.
“We will take a lot of confidence out of beating Castleford last weekend, but Leeds are a great team and they know how to play big games and get into finals. We are going to have to play our best game of the season to beat them at Leeds.”
Whatever happens today, this has already been the best season of Whitehead’s career. He scored 18 tries in the regular Super League rounds and was this week selected in the competition Dream Team.
The 25-year-old second-row admitted he has been shocked at how well 2014 has gone for him personally.
“I wanted to improve, but I didn’t think I would improve as much as I have done,” he said. “I have learned a lot off Louis (Anderson) and Zeb Taia and it has been a good move for me overall. I am still enjoying the lifestyle – I can’t complain, living on the beach and going swimming most days!”
Whitehead joined Catalan midway through last season, after requesting a transfer from his hometown club Bradford Bulls.
He was only Dragons’ second English-born and raised player, after another ex-Bradford man Leon Pryce and he reflected: “I spoke to a few of the (Catalan) boys.
“I knew Olivier Elima, because I played with him at Bradford. We spoke about the lifestyle and the club and it all sounded promising to me. At Bradford, except for Steve Menzies, I had no-one in my position to learn off. I knew about Zeb and Louis, I knew they were good players and I thought if I go there I can learn off them.”
Whitehead will be up against the other Dream Team second-row, Leeds’ Carl Ablett, this evening. Ablett is also a rival for a place in England’s Four Nations squad next month, but Whitehead insisted: “I am just concentrating on Catalans and hopefully we can beat Leeds, get through to the next round and go all the way to the Grand Final. That’s our objective, but as a team our goal is just to try and beat Leeds at Leeds. It is going to be a tough game. They’ve got some great individuals.”