Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall says a series success against New Zealand would be the ideal way to complete the “best year ever” for the club’s England contingent.
Along with fellow treble-winners Zak Hardaker and Kallum Watkins, he lines up against the Kiwis at Hull’s KC Stadium tomorrow night for the first of three Tests against the world’s number one team.
After their historic Super League, Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield glory, Hall admits they are now desperate to make it a quadruple triumph.
And the prolific wideman says it will be all the more satisfying after missing out on potential international glory in controversial circumstances last year.
England have endured some wretched luck in recent times, not least when losing to the Kiwis in the dying seconds of the 2013 World Cup semi-final but also in the Four Nations 12 months ago.
Hall scored twice during a narrow 16-14 defeat in Dunedin but had another try disallowed and could only watch on as Gareth Widdop twice hit an upright with conversion attempts.
However, the Leeds player had also had a last-minute try chalked off in the final minute against Australia the previous week, despite video replays suggesting he got a fingertip to Liam Farrell’s kick, in a decision that resulted in a 16-12 loss.
“I was obviously disappointed at the time that it wasn’t given as a try,” he admitted. “It was so gutting to go out like that. It was a video referee decision which a lot of people disagreed with that led to that.
“But it will make this year even better now when we go and get the job done. We’ll have had to wait an extra year longer (for success) but hopefully it will be extra special when it happens.
“We’ve said the same thing for the last couple of years; we are getting there and steadily we are growing under Steve (McNamara).
“We are all now really excited about going on and picking up a first piece of major silverware with this England team.
“And for us three Leeds lads defeating New Zealand would be a great way to cap off what’s been the best year ever.”
Not since Great Britain whitewashed the Kiwis 3-0 in 2007 – the year a teenaged Hall made his Leeds debut – has there been any tangible success for the national side.
However, as ever, there is a belief that that is now just around the corner with McNamara’s youthful squad gaining much needed experiences to leave them better prepared to face the southern hemisphere giants.
They will have to begin their quest against Four Nations champions New Zealand without Sam Tomkins, of course, the stellar full-back who has failed to overcome a knee injury and, therefore, misses the entire series.
That does mean, though, that Hardaker, who has just enjoyed the best season of his career, will get the opportunity to shine.
Hall, 27, said: “It is a big blow for Sam. He’s done the professional thing and tried to get himself right doing everything the physio has asked of him to do and more in training this week.
“Unfortunately, though, his injury is just too much and he misses out.
“He’s in good hands and we wish him good luck with his operation and he’ll be back playing for Wigan next year.
“But being a Leeds player it’s really good to see Zak get the nod. It would have been really interesting to see what Steve would have done if both had been available – it might have been a flip of the coin.
“Obviously Zak has been brilliant all year, won Man of Steel and now I’m sure he’ll go great having got his first chance to play New Zealand.”
Hall, who has amassed 201 tries in 253 games for Leeds and another 24 in just 25 Tests, has seen Hardaker’s development first hand at Headingley.
“It’s funny actually as when he first came to Leeds not too many people knew too much about him or who he was,” he said, about the dynamic 23 year-old who has been so central to Leeds’ treble-winning exploits this term.
“We just knew we’d signed this young kid from Fev Rovers and that he was an outside back so I remember it was good to meet him the first day of training.
“But looking back at pictures of when we won the Grand Final in 2011, the year he made his debut and played at Old Trafford as a centre, he just looks like a little boy!
“He always had the potential to do what he’s done this season. He’s grown both as a person and as a player over the last couple of years and full-back is his natural position, getting the ball and mixing things up as much as he can.
“It’s been great seeing him developing into the player he now is.”